To Bless or Not to Bless

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. ~ Matthew 5:3-5

May I offer an Irish Blessing for you? “May the blessing of Light be on you. Light without and light within. May the blessed sunlight shine on you and warm your heart til it glows.” Spend some time with this blessing. What happens within us when we give or receive a blessing?

A heartfelt blessing uplifts, inspires, and gives us hope. A blessing buoys our spirit and softens our heart. When, if ever, have we felt blessed by the Spirit through an elder, a parent or grandparent, a respected teacher or coach, a good friend, or simply the beauty of creation? Do we take time to bless others and creation?

If we live from a blessing, it transforms the way we see. My father was a quiet midwestern stoic. When I left for college neither one of us could say goodbye, we just held each other and tried unsuccessfully to hold back our tears. His embrace and his tears told me everything, “He loved me and cared very much for me.”

I remember when my sister Becky got married at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Wichita, Kansas. My grandma, the matriarch, walked up to Becky and handed her a tattered embroidered handkerchief. “I held this when I walked down the aisle with your grandfather, and I wiped my tears with it. Your mother and all your aunts carried this handkerchief as well. You can hold it for comfort, too, if you would like.” My sister carefully took the heirloom and held it in her hands. Barbara Brown Taylor says, “A blessing does not confer holiness, it recognizes what is already there.”

Father Ron Rolheiser writes, “The capacity to praise more than to criticize defines maturity.” Can we see beyond our restrictive labels and judgments and see people and creation from a “divine perspective”? Taylor says, “Pronounce a silent blessing or speak one out loud and pay attention to what happens in the air between you and that other person.”

Think of the times an elder, a parent, a grandparent, a respected teacher, or coach blessed us with a kind word or deed. “I believe in you.” “You are so smart.” “The sky is the limit for you.” “You have a bright future.” “I’m so proud of you.” Blessings transform us.

When John baptizes Jesus and his head bursts out of the water (a symbol of new life), Jesus hears his Father’s blessing, “You are my blessed one, in you I take delight.” Rolheiser comments, “It is as if, after this moment, for the rest of his life, Jesus is hearing his father’s voice constantly telling him he is a beloved child.” Jesus’ sense of being blessed formed his eyesight, and he lived out of a blessed consciousness.

Jesus says blessed are you when you are poor, when you mourn, when you are hungry and thirsty. It is as if he is saying “we are blessed no matter what our circumstances are in life” says Rolheiser. God is always with us and for us. Nothing can separate from the love of God (see Romans 8:38).

The opposite of a blessing is a curse. A blessing is to think or speak well of someone. A curse is to think or speak poorly of someone. We curse someone when we think or say, “Shut up! Don’t bug me. Go away. You’re so stupid.” When Jennifer was in elementary school she went into the girls’ bathroom and started singing with joy from the top of her lungs. Her teacher came in and said, “Stop singing. You are annoying.” As a former teacher, I cringe thinking about the times I squashed a young person’s joy for life. “We curse because we have been cursed,” writes Rolheiser.

The Good News is we have also been blessed. The Spirit continues to move through creation and mature elders to affirm, to invoke, and to consecrate our lives. “A blessing simply sees people and things from a divine perspective,” says Barbara Taylor. Do we tend to bless, or do we tend to curse? Maybe a little of both, but as we consciously grow in faith we bless more and curse less.

Rolheiser writes, “Nothing so much depresses us as cursing others, just as nothing brings us as much joy into our lives as blessing others. When we act petty, we get to feel petty. When we act like God, we get to feel like God” who is love, joy, and peace.

A sincere blessing reminds us of who we are in Christ. “May blessings drop their blossoms all around us,” wrote Rumi. A Quaker blessing says, “Let us give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.” “Deep comfort of the earth below us, vast joy of the heavens above us, great peace of the infinite within us,” reflects a Celtic blessing. An old Gaelic prayer blesses us, “Deep peace of the running waves to you. Deep peace of the flowing air to you. Deep peace of shining stars to you. Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.”

We come from a rich tradition of blessing from the beginning.
May we live from a “blessed consciousness.”
May we bless more and curse less.

Blessings and peace,