Aim to Bless, Rather Than Impress

April 15, 2013 — 6 Comments

A few years back I did an online retreat for a spiritual formations class I was taking. S.F.Es (so they are termed by my collegial brethren) is a course that spans the length of the degree. It is a core subject, with a large amount of flexibility in what classes you can choose from[1]. 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 am 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 IMG_20130321_202710determined 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) [2].

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 belittled to simply just ‘putting on a show’. If you are a recovering people pleaser like me, you will IMG_20130327_000846immediately recognize that this stems from some serious pain, prayer, healing and introspective thinking. The Holy Spirit, true to form, guided this broken Christian man towards some amazing material such as Brene Browns’ ‘The Gifts of imperfection’, Brennan Manning’s, ‘Ragamuffin Gospel’, Jorgen Moltmann’s theological opus, ‘theology of hope’ and most recently James Cone’s ‘God of the oppressed’. They all made a contribution in helping me come to a significant resting spot in my journey as a recovering people pleaser.

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 this all means is that:

In order to express excellence we must only do our best! The quest for excellence becomes an idol, and outside this framework it only feeds a sad, false sense of achievement. In doing so we live out of a darkened sense of self-worth instead of God’s idea of who we are – Jesus’ ‘sermon on the mount’ (Mt.5:2-11)…so sit, stop and breathe. It is okay, aim to bless, rather than impress. It is here and only here by which we set our feet on the Christological reality that says, ‘it is only from God that men and women know who they are’ (Bonheoffer 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)

Bibliography

Bonhoeffer, D. 1966 Christology William Collins Sons and Co Ltd, London
Cone, J.H. 1975, God of the oppressed Orbis books, Maryknoll, N.Y\


[1] I plan to write on some of my experiences, if I get the time to formulate them into a coherent and linear framework.

[2] Luke 15:17 ‘But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. (ESV)

 
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6 responses to Aim to Bless, Rather Than Impress

  1. 

    From one recovering people pleaser to another- thanks for blessing us with a great message : )

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  2. 

    So, do you think that all of those who seem to “impress,” such as Christian artists who have “made it,” Do you think that they all learned how to BLESS first and out of that, God then blessed them with the ability to impress people? Or do you think some of them are just blessed first, with the ability to impress without ever really having to work out their “intention” first? I guess what I’m saying is, do you think God will bless us with the ability to impress if our intentions are right? Also, do you still play the guitar? In what venue?

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    • 

      As I point out in my most recent post, I am leaning more and more towards the idea that aiming to bless is about alignment with Christ’s expectations, worked out in us through the Holy Spirit, than with the opinions of those around us. Feedback is important, true. However, when we seek out approval, we fall into what Brene Brown calls ‘impression management’. I think for artists it depends upon motivation and intention. Not necessarily in that order. I would also suggest that we need to make a distinction between the idea of being impressed by a show and participating in the event at which an artist is impacting us with a performance. In sum where I am theologically with this atm: I don’t think God wants us to impress anything on anyone or seek their approval, conviction (impression) is the role of the Holy Spirit working in our lives what we have already received by God’s grace. As I understand it our participation is as God leads, as in it reflects who we are and whose we are. Hope that answers some of your enquiry. I don’t play guitar much these days. Thanks for stopping by. Peace.

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