New Series: Contempt & Blessing

This post is the first in a series that will explore the impact of contempt and blessing on the human soul, relationships and community.  In upcoming posts, I will explore views that pre-modern cultures had concerning the effect of speaking contempt (i.e. cursing) or blessing.  I will also delve into the practice of blessing as antidote to contempt—that spoken words can introduce healing to the human soul.  My operational premise is as follows: Words of contempt and blessing, whether spoken aloud or rehearsed internally, have significance in unseen realms that are attendant to our words.  Words can further weaken embattled souls (including our own), or they can bring life and healing.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”

                                -Philo of Alexandria (20 B.C.-50 A.D.)

I was introduced to these words by my pastor several years ago along with his assertion that they were the only ones he would ever affix to his car via a bumper sticker.  This quote continues to grab my attention years later. Upon encountering these words and allowing them to sink in, they provide a succinct template for daily moments that are pregnant with imminent and transcendent reality.  These words are a gift, even if the quote does not belong to Philo, but to another, or even if it was plagiarized or concocted for the most recent edition of Effective and Meaningful Church Marquees.  These words snuck through the ages, their relevance unchanged.

Every person has a battle with contempt.  This is largely an internal war that constantly rages.  If this sounds hyperbolic, listen to yourself for even a short period of time.  Pay attention to the words you say.  Slow them down and the hiss of contempt will emerge: Contempt for my body, your wealth, your politics, my laziness, my weakness, your strength, your driving—a meager list that could go on and on.  Whether self- or other-directed, the invitation to contempt is ever-present.

As our hearts attempt to “make sense” of our own personal suffering, let alone the suffering and injustice in our world, contempt often serves to temporarily restore equilibrium.  We may, somewhere within us, desire healing and justice for ourselves and others, but contempt is far more readily available.  Fundamentally, contempt is an escape from feelings of guilt, shame, powerlessness and helplessness—to survive experiences that feel God-less.

Stay tuned for Andy’s next post on Contempt & Blessing.