This popular phrase has dual meanings. Some people use this phrase to wish healing or protection, kindness or gratitude towards another. Blessing has a positive connotation and biblical roots. However, this slang is often used in sarcastic ways, which twists what may seem innocent and well-meaning. As Christ-followers, meant to serve God, bring glory to Him and love others for Jesus, it’s wise to be careful to guard our hearts and our mouths from saying something which might not convey the meaning we intend to.
How Does the Bible Define Blessing?
“We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” (1 John 4:19-21)
Blessing is a powerful display of who God is. “Scripture shows that blessing is anything God gives that makes us fully satisfied in him,” Vaneetha Rendall Risner explains, “Anything that draws us closer to Jesus.” Yes, it can mean material possessions, but blessing goes beyond the things of this earth. Blessing can emerge from a trying season of suffering, or the strength to put one foot in front of another in the face of horrific loss. Many accounts in Scripture record God’s healing, protection, and guidance. God said to Abraham,
“I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12: 2-3)
Many are the prayers we utter for blessing in the form of help, healing, and provision. God is faithful to hear every request, and though His answers may not fit our requests exactly, He is good and faithful to respond to us in a personal way according to His will for our lives. Jesus came so we would live life to the full, and God’s plans for our lives are more than we can ask for or imagine.
“Biblical blessings are often associated with protection and happiness,” Bible Study Tools explains, “God’s blessings are meant to protect us, guide us to the path of righteousness, and give us hope.” The journey of faith leads us to unwrap God’s blessings in our daily lives. Only time with Him in prayer and His Word will allow us the proper perspective, for every blessing we receive is meant to be a channel of blessing to someone else. This is how the love of God through Christ Jesus flows through us.
What Does the Phrase, ‘Bless Your Heart,’ Mean?
Bless is a verb used to describe something made holy; to request God’s favor upon; or to protect or guard from evil (dictionary.com). Bless your heart, can be a wish to protect someone from evil or to pray healing over their lives, an expression that is meant to convey fondness or sympathy for someone. For example, “the poor thing never stood a chance, bless her heart” (Oxford Languages). The shortened version, bless you, may be spoken to express thanks or good wishes. For instance, “I’ll be happy to help you in any way I can,” or “Oh, bless you! That’s very kind of you” (Merriam Webster).
However, the more popular connotation in our modern day is often thickly laced in sarcasm. “The most Southern ‘!@#% you’ there is,” the urban dictionary explains, it “Can be put at the end of a phrase to nullify any cruelty.” Bless your heart can be used sarcastically at the end of an insult to mean just kidding, or but I love you anyway. It gives a stinging intent to insult.
Sarcasm can be considered a sense of humor. We hear it pevalently in TV series and movies. It drifts in and out of our conversations all of the time. It’s a way to say what we mean without saying what we mean, which is confusing, and many times, not nice, or funny, to the recipient of the sarcastic joke.
Sarcasm, though wildly popular in the passive-aggressive tendencies of modern communication through news feeds and comment streams, it’s harsh or bitter derision or irony. It’s further defined as a sneering or cutting remark (dictionary.com).
“Chronically sarcastic people frequently rely on this obfuscation to express emotions and communicate,” explains Anthony D. Smith LMHC for Psychology Today, “These folks also often harbor passive-aggressive characteristics and simply don’t have the ability to be real about emotions, or fear confrontation were they to speak their mind.” When someone uses bless your heart habitually after a slamming insult, it becomes a creative way to deliver an insult sprinkled with a laugh and a smile.
Like everything else in life, as Christ-followers it’s important to guard our hearts and tongues where sarcasm is concerned. A little bit of humor shouldn’t rattle us, but we should always be aware of the Holy Spirit’s leading in every area of our lives, particularly in the kindness of our words.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/fizkes
Why Christ Followers Should Avoid Sarcastic Remarks
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
Jesus said we should be known by our love for one another, not our sarcasm. “Love is the distinguishing mark of Christ followers” (NIV Study Bible). The Bible clearly tells us to let our yes be yes and our no be no. To love others the way Jesus commands, it’s wise to mind our words. Scripture also tells us to take every thought captive. Before we let a sarcastic quip roll off of our tongues, it’s important to fact-check it at the door of our mouths! “God is a God of unity,” Anne Peterson wrote, “Sarcasm does not unify.”
Sarcasm is often rooted in our own insecurities and hang-ups. The saying hurt people hurt people, applies here. “Sarcasm is a thinly veiled attempt to disguise feelings of anger, fear or hurt,” Linda and Charlie Bloom wrote for Psychology Today, “It frequently diminishes a feeling of trust and safety, provoking feelings of anxiety or defensiveness due to never knowing when the other shoe is going to drop.” Some people are not inclined to verbally attack, but rather passive-aggressively drop little insult bombs throughout conversation. Jesus said, “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in use” (1 John 4:11-12).
Sarcasm can be the verbal equivalent to saying “I hate you,” in a text message, but following it with the crazy-faced emoji that leaves the reader wondering if they are really being funny or really hate you! “The intention behind sarcasm may be to be humorous or playful, but there is frequently an element of poorly disguised hostility or judgment,” Linda and Charlie Bloom wrote for Psychology Today, “When we grow up in families in which sarcasm is frequently used, there can be an insensitivity to others’ sensitivity to it. It can feel hurtful or hostile to the person on the receiving end of it.” This isn’t the way Jesus intended us to love others. A little sarcastic humor has its place, but not as a substitute for something we are too lazy to filter or not brave enough to convey honestly.
NIV Study Bible, Copyright © 1985, 1995, 2002, 2008, 2011 by Zondervan.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/fizkes
Meg, freelance writer and blogger at Sunny&80, is the author of “Friends with Everyone, Friendship within the Love of Christ,” and “Surface, Unlocking the Gift of Sensitivity,” She writes about everyday life within the love of Christ. Meg earned a Marketing/PR degree from Ashland University but stepped out of the business world to stay at home and raise her two daughters, which led her to pursue her passion to write. She has led a Bible Study for Women and serves as a Youth Ministry leader in her community. Meg, a Cleveland native and lifelong Browns fan, lives by the shore of Lake Erie in Northern Ohio with her husband, two daughters, and golden doodle.
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