The first habit I want you to consider embracing is that of blessing others. In fact, I’d like you to bless three people each week —at least one of whom is a member of your church and at least one of whom is not. The third can be from either category.
The term “to bless” can have various meanings. Technically, it describes the act of consecrating something or someone by religious rite or word. From the Old English bletsian, which was in turn from the Proto-Germanic blodison, it originally meant “to hallow by the sprinkling of blood on pagan altars.”
When the Bible was being translated into Old English, the term was chosen to translate the Latin benedicere and Greek eulogein, both of which have the meaning “to speak well of; to praise.” Later, the meaning shifted toward “to pronounce or make happy.”
Today, Christians use the word bless in a variety of ways. In most respects it means to confer prosperity or happiness upon another. Even blessing someone who has just sneezed is an expression of such goodwill and a desire for continued health.
I’ve heard that part of the etymology of the term “to bless” is “to add strength to another’s arm.” In this respect, to bless others is to build them up, to fill them with encouragement for them to increase in strength and prosperity.
(Incidentally, I know Christians often talk about “blessing God,” and since it’s impossible for us to add strength to God’s arm, it seems an odd use of the term. The reason for it, though, is that the Old English bletsian was also chosen to translate the Hebrew brk, which meant “to bend the knee, worship, praise, invoke blessings” —an entirely appropriate reference to our relationship to God.)
What does it mean to add strength to another’s arm? Anything that relieves their burden in life. Anything that helps them breathe more easily. Anything that lifts their spirit or alleviates their distress. It can be a small thing or large. From my experience, blessing another generally takes three different forms.
Words of Affirmation
Words of affirmation are the simplest way to bless someone. Send them a note, write them an e-mail, or text them. Send them some words of affirmation and encouragement. Let them know you’ve noticed something worthwhile about them. Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” I’ve heard it said that a word of encouragement is like oxygen to the soul. Beautiful. A word of affirmation helps our souls to breathe more easily.
Michael Frost, Surprise the World: The Five Habits of Highly Missional People (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2016).
I have just completed a series of lessons based on this book. They are available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription service. For a medium-sized church, lesson subscriptions are only $10 per teacher per year. Lessons correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines as well as the International Standard Series.