Blessing Others

by Tim Isbell, June 2016

Recently, a soon-to-be new mother asked Robin and me to join in a time of blessing and offering of advice to her husband, the soon-to-be new father. 

I remembered, many years ago, teaching this skill using principles from The Blessing, a book by Gary Smalley and John Trent. The book, a little dusty, still sits on my shelves, and I also found my old teaching notes. Together these informed my contribution to the occasion, attended by a circle of friends. It was a blessed time, indeed.

Afterward, I decided to post Smalley and Trent's five elements of blessing others. To learn more about how to bless people, read on.

What happens to those who never receive the blessing?

  • Some become driven: perfectionists, workaholics, picky house cleaners, and so on. They’re out to earn the blessing they didn’t receive as a child.
  • Others become detached. They didn’t get blessing earlier, so they avoid further disappointment by keeping their distance from others who might bless them.
  • Some become 2000 pound sponges, sucking too much energy from others and unable to rise and bless others
  • Some become angry and live with a chip on their shoulder. They didn’t get the blessing they needed, and they’re mad about it.
  • And many fall prey to unhealthy people or substances.

If we don't get the blessing, we suffer. And if we don’t bless the people in our lives, then they suffer, and we miss the blessing God gives to those who bless others. God wants to bless us, and he wants us to bless the people around us.

Five elements in blessing someone:

1. Meaningful Touch

Purdue University Library illustration

Librarians alternately touched and did not touch students as they handed back library cards. Later they interviewed each student. Those touched reported more positive feelings about the library and the librarian.

Neurosurgeon illustration

For half his patients, he sat on their bed and touched their arm or leg while talking with them. But not for the other half. He spent the same amount of time with each one.

At exit time, nurses gave patients a short questionnaire, especially asking them to comment on the amount of time the doctor spent with them. Those he touched perceived that he spent twice as much time with them as he did.

Some people, especially guys, are uncomfortable touching or being touched. I was, and still am to some extent. But when I understood that touching is a valuable element of blessing, I learned to do it.

2. Spoken words

In scripture, a blessing is not a blessing until it is spoken. The book of James says the tongue is powerful, and it can destroy when it says wrong things. It can also damage by keeping silent. Silence says “I’ve given up on you.”

Some excuses to let go of:

  • I just don’t know what to say.
  • I don’t want to inflate their ego.
  • If I praise her, she might take advantage of me.
  • She knows I love her without me having to say it.

These are not reasons; these are excuses. The real reason most of us don’t speak words of blessing to those around us is that our parents never spoke blessings into our lives - probably because their parents never blessed did the same for them! We need to fix this problem in our generation.

At the blessing of the soon-to-be new father, I wrote my blessing on a card to leave with the couple, and also spoke it in the time of blessing:

  • May God grant you the wisdom to raise Baby _____ as a fruitful citizen of his Alternate Kingdom.    -James 1.5
  • May God give you the capacity to teach about and extend grace to Baby _____, even while he/she grows up in a performance-obsessed world.    -Ephesians 2.8-9
  • May God grant you the gifts and graces to provide for Baby _____’s mother, (future) brothers and sisters, and the extended family, all while you serve as a reconciling agent for a reconciling Lord.    -2 Corinthians 5.17-21

3. Express their high intrinsic value

We must recognize a person’s inherent worth and hold it up for them to see. Look for their high points and speak them out as part of the blessing. Everybody has some good attributes. God designed us that way, so look for them. When you find an intrinsic value, affirm and encourage it.

Here's an example in which a couple uses a "word picture" to express the high intrinsic value they find in their December child:

Every Christmas they wrapped up her baby picture and put it under the tree so she’d realize that they consider her a valuable gift. At 13 yrs old, months away from Christmas, the girl was struggling. So Mom and Dad made a copy of her baby picture, wrapped it and presented it to her. It was just what she needed, and years later she points to that as a critical turning point in her life.

The principles of word pictures

  • Capture a character trait in an ordinary object.
  • Match the emotional meaning of the trait you are praising with that object.

Word pictures are not easy for some of us, but they are powerful. To learn more about word pictures, read The Blessing by Smalley and Trent.

4. Help them envision a favorable future

Young people need someone to spend enough time with them to discover their capabilities and then speak to them about how these can lead to a desirable future. Our peers and even our elders often need this sort of encouragement. 

When dealing with elderly people nearing the end of life, picturing a favorable future involves holding up: 

  • Scriptures that promise of heaven.
  • The new body that Jesus' followers receive in the resurrection.
  • Fellowship that lies ahead within God’s family in heaven.

For a collection of relevant scriptures check out Sections 1 and 2 of the Visitation Scripture List.

Here is another example, again using a word picture: 

Several years ago I served as a substitute father for a young guy. He had an aggressive, strong personality with a physique to match. I had a sense that this might cause trouble in his teen years, so in middle schoolI decided to try to imprint in him something that would picture a favorable future. This ended in another word picture: 

A nearby park had a large oak tree, the kind with a gigantic trunk and a large canopy of branches and leaves. In those branches lived lots of birds, squirrels ran around in it, and under the tree was lots of shade for hot days. When the intense winter storms hit, this tree stood firm. One day I took the young guy to the oak and described the tree's characteristics to him. Then I told him how the tree illustrates the kind of adult I knew he would grow into. Occasionally, without provocation, I reminded him of the tree. And especially if I noticed him drifting into the natural tendency at over-aggression, I'd find a way to remind him of the tree. We spent 10-12 years together. He's now an attorney with a wife and three kids.

5. Make an active commitment to them

For example:
  • Pray for them. 
  • Make time for them.
  • Stand by them, even when they fail or are in trouble.
  • Set aside resources they’ll need for the future.
  • Look for ways to help them connect their heart to the heart of their Creator.

The same young guy in the oak tree story needed a minor course-correction during high school. He needed some spending money so he found a job at a liquor store (that also sold a few groceries and magazines) within walking distance of his apartment. They paid him in cash. As soon as I heard about this, I went to talk with him. I told him that I wanted him to quit the job immediately to keep his focus on academics and stay involved in football. I assured him that he could start his working career a little later, and with a more honorable job. 

Of course, he still needed spending money that his mom couldn't supply. So I set up a system to provide a steady allowance through high school.

Summary of the five parts of blessing:

  1. Meaningful touch
  2. Spoken words
  3. Express their high intrinsic value
  4. Help them envision a favorable future
  5. Make an active commitment to them

For more depth and lots of great examples of godly blessings, read Smalley and Trent's excellent book.

Blessings to you - now, go bless somebody,

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