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.