Tuesday, April 13, 2010

gratitude instead

I've been chafing a lot lately when I hear people say that they've been "blessed" to be in the situation they're in, or "blessed" to have a well-behaved child, or "blessed" to have a job that pays 6 figures.

I'm not trying to be difficult, but there's something about this that is getting under my skin lately.

It smacks of this insinuation that those who DON'T have what those folks have are NOT blessed. Those who have miscarried instead of carrying children to term are not blessed; those whose children have behavior disorders or are simply unruly are not blessed; those who have chosen a career or a calling that will never earn them a 6-figure salary are not blessed; those who live in a tiny 2-bedroom apartment instead of a 6-bedroom super-gigundo mansion are not blessed.

Perhaps I exaggerate. But you get the point.

Even with smaller things, like the ability to run a successful grief center (I just visited one yesterday and the director used this "blessed" phrasing), or who get a small promotion, and call themselves "blessed," make it difficult for me.

I think perhaps people are using this "blessed" phrasing to make sure they acknowledge God's role in their lives instead of saying that they're "lucky," which implies some frivolous bestowing of fortune by the universe instead of a benevolent God, perhaps.

But I was thinking that perhaps what I would like to hear best of all, and what I will hold myself accountable to say when even I would be tempted to let that phrase "blessed" slip from my lips, is "I'm grateful for..."

I'm grateful for my children.

I'm grateful for my home.

I'm grateful for my call to ministry at the church I'm serving.

I'm grateful that I have steady income and that my husband has a good job.

Yes, perhaps all of those things are also blessings, but I would like to talk about gratitude instead.

It's just something I've been thinking about.


Songbird said...

You are exactly right. That kind of casual assertion turns God into a sort of Cosmic Santa who rewarded one group and left out or punished another. It sounds great when things are going well, not so much in bad times.

Sarah said...

Hmm. You're right.

Is there a difference between "being" blessed and "feeling" blessed?

Sarah said...

Sarah, that's a very good point! I think I can deal with people "feeling" blessed; indeed I feel that way a lot. I certainly wouldn't want to take anyone's feelings away from them.

I've also been thinking about blessing in a different way, the way that Rachel Naomi Remen describes it:

jo(e) said...

I think in the dominant culture the word "blessed" has become some kind of cliche that is separated from its original meaning. I've heard atheists use it -- it always sounds strange. but then I realize that they aren't talking about God at all.

Crystal D said...

I love this post. I have never felt comfortable using the "I am so blessed" when it comes to my children, husband, house, job, etc. for exactly what you said. I have said it, but it never felt good. Like I am worthy of something a woman who cannot get pregnant or just lost her husband is not worthy of. I only feel comfortable using "blessings" this way when I pray silently. Then it feels right to thank God for them. But you found the right word for me, I am grateful. I am so absolutely grateful.

Byron Wade said...

Sarah -

Thanks for a great post! As an African-American Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) pastor in North Carolina I hear the "blessed" word a lot, especially from my Pentecostal Holiness friends, family members and colleagues. Saying "I'm blessed" is nothing compared to "I'm blessed and highly favored!" Sometimes it is hard to distinguish whether they mean on a individual comparison basis or just being grateful for what God has done for them. It is definitely not a term that will go away in my community (and I don't necessarily think it is a bad thing) but I think when it is said we have to ask for clarity and find different words/ways in which we are acknowledge God's ways in our lives not only for ourselves but for the whole community.

Thanks again for the post.

Byron Wade

chaidrinkingfool said...

Yes! I'm a new reader here, and I am finding that much of what you say resonates with me. From a non-churched background, I try to sort out the source of my discomforts in various situations. Not entirely comfortable with the word "blessing", I've recently begun expressing my *gratefulness* for much...