As a parish priest, I tend to do a very specific kind of blessing. I bring the often-invisible imprimatur of the church into churchly settings using scripture citations and formulaic language. I often rely on formal and written prayers in accordance with the tradition that I have been given and am passing down. That is one form of blessing, but it's often too restrictive for other settings.
A lot of the time I just want to shed light where it hopefully needs to be shed, and to show appreciation for others. I want to say something less specific to the requirements of the institution and more specific to the life of one person. I want to build up.
Blessing is not just giving praise. It is putting your positive noticings about others into a concrete form that they can behold. It is specifically naming why you are grateful for someone, thereby clearing a space for the person to see him/herself as others might, and to feel profoundly valued as a result. It is allowing for a moment of your own vulnerability to demonstrate how others' efforts are helping things move along and get better.
Here's how I might do this.
- Ask for time. "Do you think you might have ten minutes later today?"
- Go to the person. Seek to see him/her in person, in a venue that's comfortable and known.
- Stand up when you can and look the person in the eye. In this culture, these cues silently communicate respect.
- Be aware of power dynamics and the power principles involved in interpersonal relationships. These can never be fully set aside.
- Don't speak a minute more than you have to. This is not primarily about you. True brevity requires a bit of forethought. BUT --
- Don't use notes. They intermediate. Also, their very presence can create concern in environments where trust has been an issue. AND --
- Don't speak from a memorized set of talking points. It must feel strange to be "blessed" by someone reading off a series of mental cue cards or a dry recitation of statistics everyone already knows.
- Don't go on anyone else's behalf. This works best when it's one-to-one, with no one else's shadow (whether real or as an 800-lb. gorilla) in the room.
- Don't bring up any other business; this is the only purpose of your visit. There can't be a hidden agenda; it has to be a real offering all on its own. It is not an occasion for gossip or to forge ties over and against a third person, or to create alliances or divide up camps.
- Speak your peace. Here is a rough path of general points you can follow. Lists are by no means exhaustive.
- Your interpretation of the facts based on a 100% authentic read of a person and a situation. You know:
- "My guess is life hasn't been very easy for you lately, but a lot of us have seen you working so hard in spite of it."
- "I've seen you do some really cool and creative things lately."
- "You've taken some hits but you just keep getting back up."
- "I love how you've taken this angle on things."
- "You're doing a lot of things in a way that communicates care and thought."
- "I've never heard you say one single negative thing about anyone."
- Basically, whatever authentically represents the moment.
- The effect the person has had on you.
- "A lot of us are inspired."
- "You've changed how I/we think about _________ for the better."
- "I want to take _______ in a different direction because of you."
- "I'm going to start following your example."
- "I'm always glad when I know we're going to work together."
- That the world needs more of this sort of thing.
- "This is a better place to be."
- "I'm happy I'm here."
- That you just wanted the person to know all this.
- "Sometimes it helps to hear someone else say it."
- "It's easy to think about these things and then go on to something else, but I really thought you should hear it in this case."
- And that's all you wanted to say. Oh! And --
Above all, be kind, clear, and compassionate. And you will do fine.
This is one way we can make the world a better place.