Are You Blessed or Just Bragging?

Gratitude is a universal feeling, as is the notion that sometimes you just get lucky. Religion isn’t required to feel grateful for life’s unexpected gifts, no matter the magnitude. And some of us can recognize that our hard work, dedication, kindness, or generosity, among other things, can yield wonderful feelings and rewards. I have noticed, however, the ongoing trend of immediately attributing accomplishments or good fortune to God’s blessing. From hailing a taxi cab to winning the lottery, people will often say “I am blessed.”

A New York Times article addressing this phenomenon recently caught my eye. In “They Feel ‘Blessed,’” Jessica Bennett’s commentary on the use of the word to describe good luck or achievements, specifically via Twitter or Facebook, is not only humorous but also so confounding for humanists.

OK, so you survive a horrific accident; you win the lottery; you are accepted into an Ivy League school. Some would say you’re blessed, but more often it’s the people to whom these things occur who say they are. Without overtly stating it, the implication is that God stepped in to influence events with a positive outcome for you personally. In any scenario this seems ridiculous to nonbelievers. But let’s talk about how the use of this word has spiraled out of control to the point where the word “blessed” is meaningless. Or perhaps the use of the word in reference to everything from major life events to everyday occurrences of little to no significance has a certain logical consistency if you believe God has a hand in everything. Now you can be blessed if you made your bus on time, if your significant other buys you flowers, if someone wishes you happy birthday. Did your alarm go off this morning? You are blessed! Did your car start? BLESSED! (Or #blessed.)

As a nonbeliever who doesn’t agree with the concept of being blessed in a traditional sense, the constant belting of this phrase deserves critique.

I can’t possibly see why anyone would want to dedicate their accomplishments to the “blessings” of a god. If you’ve earned it, you deserve the credit. Personal accomplishments fully accredited to anyone but yourself completely undermines your ability and depreciates everything you have done to earn it. God did not get you that job, you did. Or maybe your well-connected uncle did—point is, real people are involved. You also have to consider the person who works just as hard and doesn’t get the job—if you’re blessed, is he or she cursed?

Likewise, you shouldn’t recognize someone else’s accomplishments as a blessing from God. This shows you are completely unaware of what it took to achieve said accomplishment. It also says the successful person’s work was not as significant as it really was.

I can understand that religious people who believe blessings are gifts from God see the use of the word as totally positive. But they might consider that applying the concept to major life events (the birth of a child, for example) and to the mundane (you fit into your skinny jeans again) minimizes major accomplishments.

Here’s the point: If you earn something, take the credit. If someone you know earns something, give them credit. If something good happens to you and you want to share, consider that chalking it up to being blessed can come across as boastful and even insensitive.

We need to feel proud of ourselves. We need to feel significant in something and to somebody. And, we need to feel powerful and confident. Don’t give your power and ability away, and don’t take it from anyone else.

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  • There’s also the counterpoint that people who don’t make their goals are oddly unwilling to blame God for their lack. Some comedian said it first, but surely if the winning quarterback thanks the Lord for helping him win, he’s setting up an imbalance – why can’t the losing player answer an interview statement with, “Well, we were doing just fine until the end of the third quarter, when Jesus made me fumble!”

  • Melinda Robinson

    Absolutely spot on, Meghan. I’ve said the same myself on many occasions. One thing that has particularly irked me since losing my teenage daughter to cancer 5 years ago is people who either survive cancer themselves or are related to someone who did. So many times I read and hear, “Oh, So-and-so is so blessed! God cured his/her cancer!”

    First of all, you’re saying my baby girl was cursed? That God didn’t love her as much as he loves you? Why are you so special but my child wasn’t?

    Then, they add insult to injury by completely ignoring the expertise and talent of the medical professionals involved. Not, “Dr. Jones is a wonderful oncologist. Thank you for saving my sister’s life!” No. Instead, it’s, “God is wonderful and powerful! Thank you, Lord, for saving my sister’s life!”

    In both cases, humanity’s role is downplayed. We’re supposed to feel as if we could never accomplish anything without the Christian God; indeed, I have seen many say that is exactly the case. No wonder America is a nation full of people with lousy self-esteem! We’re not even allowed to feel proud of ourselves or anyone else for anything, apparently, but are to bow down and scrape before this perfect, superior (fictitious) being who we can never even hope to be good enough for. Crikey, no wonder we’re screwed up.

    • Cyndie B.

      if “god” was so wonderful, there wouldn’t be such a thing as cancer. btw, so sorry for your loss…

      • Melinda Robinson

        Thank you, Cyndie. And yes, you are very right. If there was a god who allowed children to die, cancer to grow, and people to be emotionally eviscerated, I certainly wouldn’t want any part of him. I’ve been told that “god” allows these things to happen so that you get closer to him. Sorry, I had enough of dysfunctional parental relationships when I was growing up.

      • RealityCheck

        God is a real Scumbag the way i look at it, and a real God wouldn’t have done this at all.

        Just too much pain and suffering on this Rotten Earth.

    • D

      Melinda, I’m so sorry your daughter died. My sister died of cancer on her 39th birthday this past summer. I’ve heard similar things that you referenced said, and even was told I was “blessed” to be able to be with her when she died. I’d rather have been “blessed” to be celebrating and eating cake with her. I was told many other things, using that word…all meant to soothe my grief….not meant to harm. But people don’t think about its meaning. I find it odd that people who aren’t religious respect the word and it’s meaning more than some who call themselves religious.

      • Melinda Robinson

        Thank you, D. I was told similar things, not to mention the ubiquitous “she’s in a better place” and “God needed another angel.” I swear, if I EVER hear either of those things ever again, I am going to projectile vomit all over the person who said it. It’s all just words… lip service, and like prayer, a moral alibi. In the end it’s just to make the speaker feel as if they’ve said or done something helpful, assuaging their feelings of helplessness and perhaps guilt. And while I can be gracious about it, it doesn’t mean a thing to me.

    • Mark St John

      That was the best post I have read in a long time. Thank you for your insight Melinda, and I am sorry for your loss.

    • Emily Hoppel

      I agree so much with you and I’m sorry for your loss.

  • Pati Beardsley

    And Someone, Please, Explain to me why it’s perfectly “Fine” to say, “god Bless”, but it’s horrible to say “god Damn”. I’m not damning your “god”, I’m asking “it” to damn, just as I would ask “it” to “bless”. I don’t like this double standard. These people really believe in their god. But Do they? They wouldn’t need to deep throat us with all this god stuff if “it” were credible in the first place. I don’t need to be constantly reminded that you believe in a white guy in the sky wearing flowing robes and locking a gate with no fence, on all who dare to not “believvvvve!!!!!!!!!!!!”.

    • Bartley p

      In Christian faith gd is considered blasphemy according to gods word. God bless is not. Just to answer your question. Outside of Christian circles I’m sure gd and gb are both perfectly fine.

  • Bartley p

    Is it possible that it was not religion that caused division, but your attitude towards it. Division can be caused by nonbelievers as well. Maybe she does not speak to you because she was tired of you demeaning her faith constantly. Since I doubt that was first time you ever said something like that to her.

    • Jen

      So typical. It’s perfectly fine for an insecure christian to be insulted when ANYONE is honest and disagrees with them. And it’s perfectly fine for a christian to discredit the hundreds of humans who worked tirelessly to save the miners. Last week my christian brother requested that I have two facebook pages. One for reality and the real me, and one for christian family members so they aren’t offended by my secular REALITY. Uhh NO. If I can accept the whole person who is a christian, it’s time they got their panties out of their ass crack and extended the same respect they expect from others. ANYONE can be a fake to your face. If that’s what christians need from other people to be included in their lives, then I feel very sorry for them.

      • Bartley p

        It’s not fine for anyone to hurt anyone. I think we can disagree without insulting each other. Which both sides do too often. If I said something to a family member and it hurt them to the point they would not speak to me, then I would try to reconcile. In fact I have had this happen to me as well, I apologized even though to this day I know I was not wrong, but I came across hurtful. In my post I was only trying to point out that the division in Brian’s case might be shared, not just caused by religion. After reading my post again I can see that it came across as rude and I for that I apologize.

  • Bartley p

    1 Corinthians 1:18. Is being proven with every post. There is a lack of understanding of Christian faith going on here. I get you are not believers, but I don’t get the complete degrading and demeaning of people of faith

    • You misunderstand the post. I am not degrading anyone. I am talking about believers themselves degrading their own beliefs by expressing that God’s work is that of the most insignificant daily happenings. It is arrogant to think that God is up there doing nothing but helping you win at gambling or any other trivial activity. In fact, it appears that the people who lack understanding of Christianity are those believers who do behave this way.

      • Bartley p

        Sometimes gods works is that of the seemingly insignificant daily happenings. Sometimes the things that seem trivial to us are not trivial at all. However I do agree that many Christians have a sever lack of understanding of their on faith, but the post on this article also show a lack of understanding

    • John Cochran

      Maybe you misinterpret the degree of atheist disdain for non-religious people. I believe the dissidence of non-believers you sense is very much like rejection modern people feel when they read about their ancestors in the 17th century burning young girls to death because they have been convicted of being witches. We think, “How can anyone be so unaware that there is no such things as witches! Where is their understanding!” In this present day and age with all the scientific discoveries and revelations, the atheists see the world and universe in a totally different light. Many of us are somewhat ashamed that we once were locked into such a primitive mindset, just as those Salem witch hunters were centuries ago. We actually believed that a god simply conjured up so many things that we now, through science, know were originated in an understandable physical reality. We simply feel sorry for those who would stay in a belief system so much like those ancients who saw who were witches in tea leaves. Wanting others to see the light is why some of us come on a bit too strong.

    • mason

      Which Christian faith? there’s a plethora of brands. The basic bible based Christian-Judeo ancient message is love me, worship me, or I’ll hurt you and punish you forever; that’s sadomasochism 101. Faith is based on lack of evidence (Hebrews11:1) and with that human intelligence takes a back seat. Perhaps it is you who really fail to understand faith?

  • kcdad

    Saying you are blessed means you think god singled you out for this blessing… whether you admit you are deserving or not, apparently the creator of the universe thinks you ARE worthy, so who are you to argue?
    It is all narcissistic solipsism.

  • SunnySideUp

    What about people feeling blessed that God gave us the means to achieve major accomplishments. It’s a simple fact not everyone has the same means/resources to accomplish great things, for example , MONEY. I absolutely think you SHOULD recognize ANY accomplishment as a blessing from God. Just my two cents!

    • By your logic those who do not have the means to accomplish their goals have been neglected by god? Why would god bless some and not all? You are correct, not everyone has the same means/resources but that has nothing to do with god. That has to do with race, geography, gender, up-bringing, intelligence, financial history, self-determination, etc. God made SOME people get rich and let other starve? God let SOME people get an education but not let others who also deserve it? I am sorry but you do not have any point in your last statement.

  • Dodino

    From an ex-believer prespective, you give gawd the credit in hope to get more from him, and in fear to get too proud of yourself, so gawd punish you by ruining your accomplishments.

  • mason

    Excellent article. It always strikes me when the believers use the yucky “blessed” it always carries with it an implied “unblessed or cursed: by those in tragic or unfortunate circumstances. When I was a Baptist I noticed there was also an implication that bad things happened to people cause they weren’t right with God, or believers who maybe have not been up to par.

    • CC

      About 10 years ago, a woman who was completely overboard with her Christian faith insulted me about my rare kidney disease, saying that god was punishing me for my unbelief. She died last year of cancer. I wonder if she ever remembered what she said to me before she died.

      • mason

        Insulting others as you’ve described is the stock in trade by, especially, Evangelical believers with their phony self righteous inane beliefs. I’ve watched the same thing happen to so many of the people you describe who think their bullsh*t sky God is protecting them and then horrible tragedy strikes them and/or their family. I used to be in the Baptist cult 45 years ago and it’s still the same today for these delusional creatures.

        • CC

          So true. She and her daughter used to be such nice people. Now the daughter posts everything on her Facebook about god and jesus. Some things she says, I would love to “like”, but she has to throw god into every comment. I told her that she was breaking the 3rd commandment by using his name in vain continually. She won’t listen to me and does it more now. Christians and other believers are so annoying!

          • mason

            Annoying, and the parts I really dislike; scientifically illiterate & politically dangerous. I often picture them wearing “Backward Pride” T-shirts…I’m on Facebook Mason Lane Gainesville Fl

          • CC

            I tried to find you, but you didn’t come up on Facebook. Look up Cynthia Montoya to see if you can find me.

          • mason

            I should show up under Mason Lane Gainesville Florida…what city for you?

          • CC

            I keep trying to include your name and location, but nothing shows up. I’m from Albuquerque, NM

  • John Cochran

    Excellent and timely article. The “blessings” others tell us to have on a daily basis have become very annoying. It’s everywhere. Even the lady in the post office tells me to have a blessed day. (Okay, Good idea. I’ll go out and have one.) And sometimes the blessings are on the absurd side. You see professional athletes pointing to the heavens as to say “It was God that blessed and helped me make that touchdown catch! No dude, it was those hundreds of hours of practice that created such a result. And when the other team winds up winning the game, just why was the lord’s blessing so puny? Or how about those unfortunates who seem confused about their blessings, ….I live in Oklahoma where tornadoes are a frequent occurrence. So many times you’ll see some poor person being pulled out from the ruble of what used to be his or her home. The first thing they seem to want to say is that the lord blessed them and they survived! I say, look around you folks. If you think the lord is taking such good care of you, why did he destroy your home and leave the houses on both sides of you unscathed? And if you had the foresight to put in a tornado shelter it wouldn’t have been necessary for the lord to put that big gash on your head. it may be from the black recesses of my mind, but I shake my head when a church is hit with lightning and burns to the ground, I know what the pastor will say when a TV camera is pushed in his face.. He will say, “We were so fortunate that the lord protected us from danger and no one was harmed. Hey guy, if the lord has such control over your lives, what exactly was in that sermon last Sunday that pissed him off so much? Well, I guess that’s all I have to say on this subject. Thanks for reading. I hope you have a blessed day.

  • Karen R. Koenig

    Usage of the word “blessed” rather than ascribing positive happenings to luck, coincidence, good fortune, or hard work has bothered me for years and I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments. Thanks for expressing my thoughts on the subject.

  • Robin Hood

    You re an unhappy and a frustrated person.

  • OracleSound

    I’m sort of okay with people saying they “feel blessed.” I can get what they mean. When someone says they are blessed because they overcame some illness or avoided tragedy, my immediate thought is that the people who do not have the same outcome are not blessed. I don’t think people think about what they are saying and how it might sound to others. It’s really rude and presumptuous if you really think about it.

    • I would say “lucky” in the same situation. Goes to free will, I guess.

  • KK

    THE [empty-headed] fool has said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable deeds; there is none that does good or right. [Rom. 3:10.] (‭Psalm‬ ‭14‬:‭1‬ AMP)

  • Stephanie D

    I am a Christian and read this article because I was tired of other Christians bragging about their everyday typical “blessings”. However this article seems to be a bit of a contradiction because giving yourself all credit for working hard can be a bit boastful too. Even if you do not believe in God, there are so many other factors that help people survive a crash or get into Harvard…there’s doctors and nurses who helped you, there’s good teacher and authors who helped you learn. Giving credit outside of yourself shows how universal your heart is. Some believers, like me, do give credit to God when due because we have depended on a higher source, above earthly flaws, to help overcome hardship.
    So yes, surviving cancer is a blessing if it was fate’s destiny for you to overcome that milestone. Not surviving cancer is a blessing too, the person was given the opportunity to fulfill the unknown and be in a peaceful non-physical dimension, never having to suffer anything again, or reincarnate or whatever God does. Just because some of you who are left alive to grieve are angry about these deaths does not mean that God is selfish or unreal. It means that he knows you two will be as one again and he has trust in you! Yes trust; that you can finish this life peacefully by remaining faithful when you do not understand things. I am not saying that bragging is okay…I too cannot stand the “Oh I have a beautiful husband, I’m so blessed” stuff. However, when people have great accomplishments or survival and humbly give credit to what they have learned through spirituality then just be happy for them…and maybe you too one day
    will feel less bitter. I am sorry about your losses but instead of leaning on your own understanding seek truth and positivity. I tried for years to have a child and then lost a baby…even through that, I look back and know that God can create and bring back home living creatures because there’s a bigger picture. Besides I trust my child being with God more than I trust this world. 😉

  • Simon Peter

    I live in Africa and see sorrow all around me. Two days ago on Christmas day – one of my best friends mother was killed in a road accident. This sort of thing causes many people to misinterpret life.

    I have learned this about blessing. Blessing is more of a mind set or an approach to how we see our life.

    I have found that In sorrow God gives me comfort. In distress God gives me peace. In confusion He gives me guidance. And so on.

    When you choose to think upon the good things that God gives us rather than focus on bad around us – you feel blessed, then your a blessing to be around and you pass that blessing on to others.

    Everyday I get up in the morning and say “Thank you God for my life, today is going to be a blessed day” then I go and bless people and you know what I feel blessed – because I am blessed!

  • upndnglo

    You think other’s shouldn’t believe because you lack understanding. I’ll pray that you understand.

  • pikachu

    Being proud is also insensitive .you will just say that your better than someone which is rude.give god the credit.

  • Mark

    Why is it so important to take pride in as much as possible? Seems petty and almost arrogant to be so vain. I happen to be a Christian and personall believe we have quite enough people in the world eager to toot their own horn. Not all who go through difficult situations are specifically being denied blessings. Many devout Christians experience this. Everyone dies. It’s part of life. To blame God for not having a perfect life until you’re 100 is ridiculous. The fact is, difficult situations make us better and stronger people. If my life was perfect I would be an inexperienced and demanding jerk with no patience or humility. So next time something goes wrong, don’t start believing in God just to have someone to blame then pretend he doesn’t exist later and wonder why you don’t unders his blessings.

  • RightBestAnswerOfAll

    Pretty much the people that have everything go their way Right should Never complain at all since they have been Blessed by God when many of us Still have Rotten luck. For instance, if many of you men are Married with a Good wife and family you should consider yourselves Very Extremely Lucky since many of us Good Single men are still Not. But with the type of women that are out there these days since many of them are Very High Maintenance now and so Stuck Up is the Reason why there are No Good ones left anymore since they’re all taken, and the Good old fashioned women of years ago were the Best at that time compared to the Pathetic ones that are out there now.

    • Yo’s Lemons

      Perhaps your attitude is what is keeping you from being “blessed” with a good wife…ever think of that? easier to blame others for our short comings though I suppose.

      • NotSingleByChoice

        Well he is certainly very right on that one since there are many of us good men still single today since there is no reason in the world to blame ourselves with the type of low life loser women that are out there these days since the ones especially that have their careers now that really do think their God’s gift to men which their really NOT at all. It is a real shame that so many others could be in the right place at the right time which NEVER happens for us which you can really see how very unfortunate many of us are since so many of us GOOD men are NOT single by choice. It obviously takes two to tangle so you can see how right i am to make a comment like this which it is a real shame that many of us WEREN’T born at a much earlier time which it would’ve been much easier to meet a GOOD woman to settle down with since many of the women back then were totally different than today which many of our family members were very FORTUNATE to be born at that time since finding love for them came real Easy. Definitely women have really CHANGED for the worst unfortunately since so many women that are now making a very high salary do want the BEST and will NEVER settle for LESS.

        • Yo’s Lemons

          A woman who is a subservient stay at home wife/mother with no options and/or choices in life is not “good” and a woman with a career is not bad. People want different things in life and in this day, it is ok to pursue what you want. There are still many woman in the world who want the lifestyle you do however, I find that blaming women for wanting a career and wanting to be treated as equals in the world for your lack of a relationship to be the real issue. You wish your born during a time when women had no options in life is basically what you are saying. I know many single women who would love to settle down however they would not be interested in settling down with someone who thinks they should be oppressed or have a 1950s lifestyle/mind set.

          And I dont know why anyone should settle for less…not just career women. If you desire a woman who had more traditional values, they do exist and I dont think you should settle for less either. I just wish you (and others) would not blame women who dont want those things for your lack of a relationship.

  • VeryTrue

    Well the ones that are married with a family were sure Blessed since many of us Weren’t.

  • Teresa

    Being blessed in ways that are beyond your capabilities is up to the person being blessed to know if it is from God. What’s funny would be those who want to challenge my life and what I know to be true in my life based on what is happening to me. Hard work can pay off. There’s no doubt. God can also bless us. Being blessed and knowing in your heart where things beyond you come from is up to the person to decide or recognize…..not someone who is on the outside. You have a right to your belief about my blessings but it’s only your belief and has less merit than my belief since I’m the one experiencing it.

    Be careful when you think you know more about what happens to me than me. That’s pretty presumptuous of you. #blessed

    God can bless me or be there with me in the trials but only I can be the judge of his presence and his assistance. I’m there. Just be careful thinking that you know more than you possibly could about other’s lives.

    I would agree that you probably aren’t blessed…but I’d wish more for you.

    • VeryTrue

      Thank you very much for your support.

  • Blake

    I agree that both religious and non-religious people feel blessed or grateful, the difference being that religious people take the spotlight off themselves and give the honor to God. Religious people are fully aware that they rightly own that honor and even deserve it due to their hard work and effort toward the achievement. However, they are choosing to give that honor to God. In fact, they value doing so, because they have chosen to honor ‘a god’, and this is one way of putting that value to action.

    • CC

      No, they are bragging about how much faith they have in their particular god. Look at me! Look at me!

  • Lindsay

    How can I LOVE this article 50,000 times???? I thought I was just a b**ch for being irritated by the overuse of this term. I thought I was crazy and maybe I was only now noticing how many people are “blessed”. I am so fortunate I found this!

    • Yo’s Lemons

      Oh no, trust me when I say, it’s not just you! My friends and I actually count how many times certain people on Facebook use the term because at this point it is vomit inducing. It has nothing to do with God that they are using the term either. It is just looking for attention or bragging in the cases I’m speaking of. “So blessed to have such a great hubby”, “So blessed for the breakfast my kids made me”, “So blessed for a snow day to play with the kids all day”…. and on and on and on…. mind you, these are the same people who, if you talk to them off of Facebook, call their kids a-holes, their husbands insensitive jerks etc etc etc. It’s just trying to convince others how great they have it and fishing for compliments.

      I dont think I’ve ever used the word “blessed” to describe anything. I am happy with what I have and the life I have created for myself. I give back to others in the form of charity work and this keeps me grounded and focused on what is important in life. There is nothing blessed about it in my opinion. And, I think the writer of the article is correct in asking: if some are so blessed, does that mean others are cursed? because that’s bullsh*t!

  • Victor

    I can’t completely agree but do agree in some aspects! You are correct when you say that we do need to take credit for some things. On the other side just because your blessed doesn’t necessarly mean that your giving away your power or showing anyone up. It simply means that yes I worked my butt off but with out Gods grace and mercy I wouldn’t be here. Also saying that your blessed shows selflessness and someone that’s humble. We as humans have a tendency not to be to fond of other people who take credit for everything good. Being blessed doesn’t mean that the other person is cursed. In most cases season Christian’s understand that if God closes one door He has another door open for you! Also it’s a blessing not to get everything that you want because everything that we worked for isn’t always what’s best for us therefore Jesus only knows.

  • ChaCubed

    Brings to mind a video I saw decades ago, of a woman entering her house built by volunteers, who fell to her knees and threw up her arms, trumpeting, “Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus!”

    There were dozens of the volunteers standing there, while she was doing this, and I gave her the benefit of the doubt, that she was overcome with emotions; but, then, after doing that for some time, she jumped up to go look at the rest of the house, and never thanked the people who did all the work, who stood there, looking somewhat perplexed, as most times, people express gratitude to them … also.

  • GoFigure

    Many people were very Blessed at birth, and so many of us weren’t.

  • RealityCheck

    It is very true that so many other people were very Blessed in life which many of us were so Punished, especially with so many people today that are married with a Good wife and family which many of us Good men are still Single and hoping.

  • dahnajeen

    Great article. I didn’t know (although I guess I should have) that so many others agreed with me on this subject. I was actually doing a search for my own blog post with a similar title when I came across this and a few others that I’m about to go read next. So refreshing to hear from others who are not so blasted “blessed” all the time. Here’s mine if anyone is interested. Same basic stance, just expressed a little differently.

    http://dahnajeen.com/2014/07/14/how-could-that-be-wrong/