A few years back I did an online retreat for a spiritual formations class I was taking. It was a core subject, with a large amount of flexibility in what classes you can choose from.
What was revealed to me during of one of these classes was the short but sweet statement, ‘aim to bless, rather than impress’. Recently, I found myself questioning it’s viability as a theological statement from which society can be critiqued.
I began wrestling with the question, is there ever an appropriate time to impress people? As a budding student theologian, I immediately started to critically work out a reasoned polemic.
The answer I came up with was no. There should never be a need to try to impress people, ever. If there is follow Paul’s advice and run, run far and run fast (2 Tim.2:22 ESV).
I’m a fairly confident guitar player, and I love a large variety of musical genres, so putting on a show is in my very westernized and socially engineered self-conscience. Throughout junior and senior high school, getting the latest riff right down to its semitone and crochet, determined a high level of social acceptance.
As a result I derived my sense of self-worth from how well I could play (i.e.: put on a show). In my pre-Christ alignment, this became an idol I obsessed over.
From hard learned experiences, for me appearance determined reputation and was therefore everything. The language of acceptance was, at least from my prespective, my musical ability.
The statement ‘aim to bless, rather than impress’ is counter-cultural. We know this because God’s standard is to ‘look upon the heart and not outward appearance..not as humans do’ (1.Sam.16:7).
This means that a statement like aim to bless rather than impress, is the ordained orientation for humanity, even if it is not always the reality. This statement appears on the ‘horizon of the possibility’s of grace’ (Leonard Ravenhill).
Father, Son and Spirit rushes towards us, not unlike the prodigal’s father running towards his son, undeterred by his “wasteful” public display of affection, joy, gratitude and forgiveness (Lk. 15:17) .
For now, I have concluded that humans are called to be bothered with how we bless people, as opposed to how we impress them. This does not mean I give up on performing, it means that I resist any area in my life where my performance, worth and acceptance is tempted to become about simply just ‘putting on a show’.
Today, I was reading my news feeds and stumbled across this relevant gem by Wendy Murray:
”Your worth, and mine, cannot–I dare say, must not — be reduced to “likes,” “retweets,” “shares,” and “mentions.” Your worth and, mine; your influence on others’ lives, and mine, have nothing to do with measureable algorythms. It is a lie…be who you are, before God. Do what God made you to do. Look people in the eye. Show up. That is enough’’
What that all means is this:
In order to express excellence we must only do our best! Outside simply giving our best, the contemporary ”virtue” of excellence and the quest for it can become an idol.
In doing so we live out of a darkened sense of self-worth dictated to us by others, instead of God’s idea of who we are. When we aim to bless, rather than impress, we set our feet on the Christological reality that says,
‘it is only from God that men and women know who they are’ (Bonhoeffer 1966, p.31).
This is the only measuring stick, and from it we ‘intuitively recognize that we, ourselves are more than what has been defined for us’ (Cone paraphrased p.11, 1975).
Give thanks, for “we are found”… (David Crowder)
Bonhoeffer, D. 1966 Christology William Collins Sons and Co Ltd, London
Cone, J.H. 1975, God of the oppressed Orbis books, Maryknoll, N.Y
(Edited from an article originally posted in 2013)