By: Amy Dalke
Bless her heart.
I love that phrase. Mostly because I get a visual of Clairee Belcher in Steel Magnolias every time I hear it. (You know…a sweet Southern woman whose tone drips with condescension?)
You can say practically anything about someone, and as long as you follow with “bless her heart”, you maintain some level of godliness. Right?
Except no, not really.
Words often slip out of my mouth before I think about the sticky effect they’ll have on the other end. And when those words sound more cutting than uplifting, I wish a “bless her heart” would make it all better.
Since my quick mouth is a trending issue, I’ve recently been reading on the practice of speaking blessings.
Probably not so ironically, this topic has also come up in our current women’s bible study at church (Wonderstruck, written by Margaret Feinberg). In the homework for the session on forgiveness, Feinberg talks about the power of speaking blessings over your enemies. She pointed out Luke 6:28: “Bless those who curse you; pray for those who mistreat you.”
(And when I say “she pointed out”, what I really mean is that this verse jumped off the page, planted itself in my face, and demanded to be taken seriously.)
The Greek word for bless in Luke 6:28 is eulogeō, which means to speak well of, to invoke blessings upon. In other words, Jesus straight up told us to speak highly of those who hurt us, cheat us, insult us, injure us, steal from us, wrong us, belittle us, and who speak hatefully to us.
As people who have been saved by the magnificent grace of God in Christ Jesus, we are to love people (everyone: enemies or not) by the way we talk to and about them.
“The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain…“ (Proverbs 10:11 NLT)
We can choose to breathe hope, and confidence, and light, and love into the soul of another; or we can opt instead to pour a hot venom of negative discouragement on top of their heads.
Kind, loving, gracious words cause the one who hears them to stand tall. On the other hand, negative words drain the face like a joy vacuum, causing shoulders to slump, and heads to sag.
The ancient tradition of “speaking blessing” goes back to the very beginning of the Bible. Blessings spoken by God himself are recorded in numerous places; Jesus spoke blessings; and individuals throughout both the Old and New Testament proclaimed blessings over one another.
Spoken blessings remain a daily practice in Jewish homes; but somewhere in the last 2,000+ years, the importance of this discipline fell off the Christian radar.
Which means we need to bring it back.
Many pastors and priests speak benedictory blessings over congregations every week. (Pastor Ben is one of them.)
But this practice needs to go beyond the pulpit: the spoken blessing needs to become the cool thing to do again – in our daily, ordinary lives. In our homes. In our offices. In our neighborhoods. In our schools. At the kitchen table. (Or in the take-out line. Whichever works for you.)
Let’s splash words of life-giving water all over our people.
Words of becoming…aptly and sincerely spoken into the souls of others.
Words that call another to reach higher, to become who they really are in Christ.
Words of grace that incite one to recognize their significance.
Words of strength that encourage another to endure with hope.
Words of affirmation, spoken with the intent to build another up, rather than knock them out.
What if we made this a thing? What if it could become such a powerful thing, that we start to see the very life it creates all around us? I dare to believe we could become so focused on generating life through our words, that death is no longer our default language.
I’m just saying. I think this could be awesome.
So let’s do it. Let’s set our minds this week to purposely speak life into our family members, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. Here’s one to get you started: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26 ESV)
p.s. You don’t have to speak in priestly tones, or use big Bible words to do this. (You might flip people out if you do.)