A few weeks ago, someone I know posted a link to an article titled “I Used to Say ‘I’m Blessed,’ Until I Asked These Two Questions.”
Although this wasn’t the first time I’d read something with this idea that saying, “I’m Blessed” is somehow a bad thing, it was the first time I had read something that seemed to have the intent of shaming and ridiculing people who utter this, or similar phrases.
You can read the article here.
When I first read it, I was angry. I was shocked and appalled that anyone would feel the need to write something so hateful, to put down those who choose to express their joy by sharing their blessings. I was also frustrated, because I could see that the author of the article, and most of the people commenting on and sharing it, truly do not understand what it means when someone says they are “blessed.” I immediately began formulating a scathing response in my mind, debunking, one by one, the incorrect statements and assumptions made by the author of this article.
But then I stopped and remembered that writing responses in anger is not generally a good idea. So I waited for a while, and thought about the article, and decided that, while my response needn’t be angry, it still needed to be.
It needed to be, because there are so many misconceptions about Christian people. About what we believe or don’t believe. About how we act or should act and why. The article linked to above is a good example of how Christian belief and action can be twisted through misunderstanding. How something with intentions and origins that are true and beautiful and good can be misrepresented and turned into something worthy of scorn or ridicule or disgust.
The author of the article I linked to says that people who say they are blessed are basically saying they are lucky, but adding an emphasis on the idea that God had something to do with their situation. And so, when someone says he is blessed, he is saying God has helped him more than others, which is arrogant and disgusting. This argument is based on the idea that when someone says he is blessed, he is making a comparison to others and saying he is better, and that if there were no others to compare with, saying one is blessed would be pointless. He suggests just dropping the God reference and just using the word “lucky” in order to be more accurate, humble, and inclusive.
However, there are several significant errors in this line of thinking. Namely, when a Christian person says she is blessed, it has absolutely nothing to do with saying she is lucky, and she is making no assumptions about or comparisons with another person at all. Even if she were the only person on earth, it would still be completely appropriate for her to proclaim, “I’m blessed.”
^^A couple of my many blessings^^
Saying that one is blessed is not a way of rubbing one’s specialness in others’ faces. It is not arrogant or egotistical (both of these are words used by the author to describe the act of saying, “I’m blessed.”). It is a way of sharing one’s joy and awe and wonder at the awesomeness of God and the many ways God can work in one’s life. It is giving credit where credit is due. It is the ultimate humility in saying, “I am not worthy of this. I do not deserve this. I am not so special. And yet… look at the many ways God has showered me with blessings.” Note that this does not imply that in saying that God has showered me with blessings, He must like me better than you. It is not a comparison. It is an acknowledgement of the goodness of God. Period. It is, in part, an expression of intense gratitude.
However, this takes me to the author’s second main point, which seems to be that when people say they’re blessed, what they really mean is that they’re grateful. Further, the author suggests that “grateful” is the better word because, “Saying you’re blessed doesn’t clearly describe the context of what you’re feeling.”
Think of this. If I say, “I’m blessed,” and someone says to me, “No, you’re not. What you really mean to say is you’re grateful. That’s a better description of what you’re feeling,” who is being arrogant? Am I not a better judge of what I am feeling than the author of this article or any other person? The author writes, “You’re not stupid, you chose the word ‘blessed’ rather than ‘grateful’ for a reason. Why?” In this statement he is absolutely correct, though he doesn’t seem to actually be interested in the “why” of the matter.
True, I am not stupid. Nor are the other people who choose to use the word “blessed” rather than “grateful.” The reason for this is that the word “blessed” actually does more clearly describe the context of what I’m feeling. To say I’m grateful for something is fine. I tell my husband I’m grateful that he did the dishes. I tell my children I’m grateful for the dandelions they bring me. And yes, I tell God on a regular basis that I am grateful for all that He has given me. But that does not encompass the fullness of the term “blessed.” To say one is blessed includes gratitude, but also joy, awe, wonder, humility, and more, all in reference to the greatness of God.
^^More of my beautiful blessings^^
At another point in the article, the author expresses doubt about the sincerity, or intelligence, of some who say they are blessed because he happens to know that these people have experienced recent inconveniences and/or hardships. He seems to be saying that it is not possible for people to experience difficulty and feel blessed at the same time. He fails to understand that, because of knowledge of the goodness and mercy of God, Christians can often find blessings even in suffering. Many are even able to see suffering itself as a blessing. This is part of the beauty of the teachings of the Catholic Faith, though for the sake of not making this post into a novel, I won’t get into this particular issue more here.
I do want to give an example though. I know an amazing woman who lost her oldest daughter this past year after a painful struggle with cancer. In spite of, or maybe even because of, this tragic loss, my friend’s faith is still rock solid and is a beautiful example of God’s grace in action. Every time I speak to her, either in person or in an email, or even just to see a Facebook status update from her, she is radiant and humble with her love of and trust in God. She expresses gratitude and describes the many blessings she is able to see in the aftermath of her daughter’s death. She almost always expresses herself in part by using the word “blessed.”
Can you imagine someone telling her that she can’t really mean that because she has experienced tragedy? That her statements of being blessed are insincere because she has suffered?
The thing is, when one has faith in God, one can find true, deep, abiding joy, in good times and in bad times. This is different from feeling good in the world. It is not dependent on moment-to-moment surface happiness. This joy is what it means to be “blessed.”
I want to clarify that, in writing this post, my goal is not to ridicule the author of the other I linked to. It is simply to point out the errors that occur when one assumes that they know another’s heart on matters that they just do not understand.
It is very common in our world these days for people to attribute all sorts of ugly intentions to Christians, to mock and deride beliefs, behaviors, and traditions that they do not take the time or the care to learn about. Calling it “arrogant” and “egotistical” and “disgusting” for someone to simply say, “I’m blessed,” is a pretty good example of this.
My hope is that people will just ask if they do not understand. If you don’t get why someone says, “I’m blessed,” ask her. Or don’t, that’s fine too. But if you choose not to seek to understand, at least please do not shame and disregard her as ignorant just because you cannot grasp her meaning or intent.
I hope that this will go beyond this one example and extend to other areas of misunderstanding as well. More specifically, I offer a gentle challenge those who mock and dismiss Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular (including many who attend Catholic parishes), to actually learn about what you are rejecting **
I have been so truly blessed (yes, blessed) to have been led to the Catholic Faith. I know that God led me and my family here. At times we experienced suffering on our way to conversion/reversion, but we now see these difficulties as the beautiful blessings they were, as they brought us to the true Faith. I want to share this blessing with anyone I can. I pray that you are open to experiencing God’s blessings in your life too.
**I have stated this in previous posts, but I will reiterate it here: if you have a question about the Catholic Faith, if there is something you disagree with or even hate about the Catholic Church, feel free to ask me about it. If I don’t know the answer, I will find it for you.