The Power of Blessing Kids
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Alan WrightAlan Wright is the senior pastor of Reynolda Church in North Carolina, a popular conference speaker, and the host of a daily 30-minute radio program syndicated on more than 400 stations, which encourages listeners through the good news of the gospel. More information about Alan Wright Ministries can be found at: pastoralan.org.
Could blessing kids impact more than you dreamed? Author Alan Wright gives ideas to correct kids, proclaim identity, & shape their future using blessing.
The Power of Blessing Kids
Ann: Okay, take five seconds and bless me—
Dave: [Laughing] What?! [Laughter]
Ann: —just five seconds. Go ahead; I’m ready. Go!
Dave: You are a life-speaking bless-er of everyone you’re around: grocery store; parking lot; obviously, at our church; our boys; our family. Oh, man! When we go over to the grandkids’ house, they run out the door. And I wish they were running to see Poppy, but they’re running to see Noni; because she’s just—you’re a blessing.
Ann: That took way more than five seconds.
Dave: You knew I was going to say that; you set that up.
Ann: But you know what? Even hearing you say that, it’s like—
Dave: Okay, flip it around.
Ann: —it fills me up.
Dave: It’s your turn.
Ann: You are a man of integrity.
Dave: Okay, that’s good enough.
Ann: No! [Laughter]
Dave: That’s all I need.
Ann: I want to keep going!
Dave: I know you do, because that’s what you do.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
But it is true; when we use our words to really tell people what we see, it’s like an air hose to our soul—
Ann: —like it feels good! And I think we doubt it sometimes; but we don’t even care if we know if it’s true; it just feels so good.
Dave: Yes, there is a power to bless—and I just mentioned the title of a book—and we have the author, Alan Wright, in here with us, again, today. Thank you so much for being back with us. Welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Alan: I’m so glad to be with you. I’m just loving meeting you guys and talking about this, that’s so dear to my heart. Thanks for having me.
Ann: I wish everyone listening—I wish all of our listeners—could see you, Alan; because the second you walk into the room, everyone thinks: “I want to know that guy.
Ann: “I want to sit beside that guy.” Because you exude love/acceptance; there’s a joy about you that really is the essence of who you are. You can tell that Jesus fills you up.
Dave: It’s one of these—in fact, I could tell, you know, as I read your book—and now, that I’m meeting you—this isn’t just a book for you.
Dave: This is your life. Your book, obviously, is called The Power to Bless: How to Speak Life and Empower the People You Love. But I’m not kidding; sitting at lunch, and then as we discuss, it’s like: “This isn’t just a book; it’s like your life story.”
Alan: It is my life story.
Alan: And it’s the story of discovering myself blessed; and it’s the discovery of how to bless others, and to raise a family under the sound of blessing, and to lead a church under the sound of blessing. You know, eventually, when we really grow in the Lord, we can reach to the point that both Jesus and Paul said: “Bless your enemies.”
So this is my life’s story; and in many ways, it’s God’s story: the One who blessed Adam and Eve; then said, “Be fruitful and multiply.” And then, all throughout Scripture, this theme that runs through it, where there’s like an invisible force at work; and “Will the people believe themselves blessed?” “Will they believe that the Promised Land is theirs, or will they believe that they’re grasshoppers?”
In many ways, it’s our story. And blessed people end up blessing other people. Those who have not been blessed have a deficit/an impoverished place that just must get nourished if they’re ever going to live out the destiny God has for them.
Ann: Alan, you talk about how the Bible has so many of these lessons, where we see a Father blessing His children. Is there actual power in that?—because they would lay their hands on them and bless them.
Alan: And I think this is—you know, isn’t it interesting?—in the Bible, where there are things that are not defined for us—
Alan: —the way that we would like for them to be. I think it’s because, you know, especially in Western culture, we’re so rationalistic that mystery is harder for us. But it is something that is on display rather [than] being defined in some objective way. What we know is: this is something that’s much more than mere encouragement, because the children of the Patriarchs craved it; it’s what they wanted! It’s why Jacob was willing to lie and cheat to try to get it. What could he get—that he thought that he could get by stealing—just to have his father lay his hands on him and speak words over him?
Why was it that, when Joseph learned that Jacob was nearing death, he had to rush because he wanted to get his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, there so that they could be blessed? What is it there when David blesses his household? Why is it that, when Jesus is born, this mysterious figure appears, takes the baby Jesus into his arms, and blesses him?
I think that, at the simplest level—yes!—it’s a powerful thing to encourage somebody; but at the deeper level, I think the message of the story of the Bible/the big story of the Bible is that there is a mystical, invisible force at work—not magic—but something that is at work that, when you receive it, there is a grace to flourish and experience favor that would not have been there.
Dave: I remember, and maybe you do as well, there was a book in the ‘80s, I’m guessing, that came out, by Gary Smalley—
Dave: —called The Blessing.
Dave: People would ask us, back then, you know, “What is the best parenting book you’ve read?” And I said, “The Blessing.” It wasn’t a parenting book!
Dave: It was just what you’re talking about.
Dave: It was just Gary and John Trent, actually, as authors, saying, “Okay, what was in this Hebrew blessing from the father to the first-born son?” They said there are five aspects. I’m going to throw these at you, and you tell me: “Is that what was there?”
They said—and I’m doing this from memory! —
Dave: —because it was so memorable.
Dave: It was almost the mystical part of what you were saying, as they tried to get a handle on saying:
- “Okay, there was meaningful touch that was involved, where the father laid a hand on [the child];
- there was a spoken word of life or affirmation;
- there was attaching high value that wasn’t dependent on performance, but based on identity as my son;
- and then there was picturing a special future; in other words, “I see this for your future.”
- And then, the last part was interesting: it was a commitment to that future. So in other words, it wasn’t a dad or mom saying, “I think God’s going to do this in you.” It was like: “How can we come alongside and help that happen?”
So as you think about the power to bless, is it all of that?
Alan: It’s all of that. And their work on this was pioneering and fantastic—it is all of that—and it is even more, I think, in the sense that we aren’t just picturing a special future. We are envisioning it, with our faith, for it to come to pass. I think that’s part of the reason, when they say, you know: “You have active commitment toward it,” which is to say that you are participating because you believe it can come to pass. That’s what makes it not empty words.
Alan: I think that, in many ways—I like Dallas Willard’s definition; one time, he said, “It is the actual willing of the good of another,”—I paraphrase that, but what he was saying was: “You know that feeling you have when you love somebody so much? You can think of this—just somebody—whether it’s your child, spouse, friend. You love someone—you just want something good for them—you want it!”
This is a way—I was talking, you know, before the show—about how much I love kids, and I have grandparent fever.
Alan: I want to get a baby in my hands!—[Laughter]—because I loved my kids when they were little babies. As I was saying to you guys earlier was: the thing I was looking forward to, before I ever was a parent, was: “I’ve been loved by God a lot, and so I have something to give.”
Dave: You want to give it away.
Alan: “I want to give it away,”—
Alan: —I do it every week, as a pastor and a preacher—but the idea of having a little life, that I hold in my hands like clay. I will put it this way: I was looking forward to having somebody that would believe me entirely, [Laughter] because that’s what our children do! They believe us entirely, and they receive it like a sponge. It is literally like helping to shape a soul.
If you want to understand what blessing is, you think of what that thing is in you that just you so want the good of another—and you know something good about the other—you would so want to just somehow impart it to them. That is what blessing is all about.
Dave: Now, some parents might say, “Well, you know, a little too much is too much.” Can you over-bless a child?
Alan: You can’t. You can praise them in the wrong way. You can’t over-bless; there is no too much blessing. As I address this in the book, blessing is both grace and truth.
Dave: That’s good! You better explain that, because you often think it’s only grace.
Alan: You think of it as only grace. I think that this is really important—and I put this section in the book—there’s even a picture of some quadrants there. And it’s interesting; most people are drawn to/they want to hear the stories of blessing and all about the power of blessing, but when you really can get somebody talking about different ways that we hear speech, and the way we speak, it becomes really intriguing.
So just very briefly: I think that to say: “That we’ve seen God’s glory,”—according to John 1, because He came in the person of Jesus, full of grace and truth, is to say—“That which is glorious is seen when grace and truth are together.”
- And if we have all grace, but not truth, then we might be really nice, but we’re just going to be leading people into error, and the truth sets us free; so there’s no freedom without truth.
- But if we have all truth, and we don’t have grace, then we might, you know, be clubbing people over the head with the Bible; but nobody’s going to want to listen to it, and they don’t open their heart unless they’re loved.
If you could envision, in a sense, that grace and truth as these continuums, as you just think about grace running like this line, endlessly; and truth that cross-sections across it:
- The quadrant, upper right, would be where there’s grace and truth; I would call that blessing.
- But the opposite of that, in that lower quadrant—no grace, no truth—that’s curse. Curse is a negative forecast that is also rooted in its own perverted form of faith. You know, fear is a form of belief; it’s just a belief that something bad is going to happen. It has no grace, no love; and it has no truth, because it’s false—that’s the problem with curse—so when it’s received, we’re not only being unloved and criticized, we’re believing something that’s not true.
- But there are other forms of speech than blessing and curse. I would say that, if you could think about, “What is grace with no truth?”—the term I would use for that is a-moralism. I think that’s the spirit of the age; and that’s where people go: “Oh, you’re just all about blessing. You can bless people to do much.” No! If you’re a-moralistic—meaning, it’s grace without truth—that’s where we’re saying to someone: “It doesn’t matter;”—you know, right or wrong—“you just follow your heart.” And it almost wants to give no direction to someone. It’s not a blessing at all!
- The other side of that is truth without grace: and that’s moralism; that’s Pharisee-ism.
I think/in fact, I’ve led groups in training to discern: “What is it that’s coming out of my mouth at any point?” In the book, I present scenarios—like real-life scenarios a parent might face; you know? Your child has had a small accident. Thankfully, you know, he’s okay; but he was texting while driving: “How do you respond to that with blessing?” Well, sometimes, people would think blessing says, “Well, don’t worry about it. Boys will be boys. Just remember the main thing is: ‘I love you.’” That’s not a blessing! It’s not true! It does matter.
A blessing doesn’t simply say, “I love you.” It says, “I love you, and here’s truth...” A blessing in that situation would sound much more like: “I love you more than anything. I most certainly forgive you for this, but you are a treasure and God has an important destiny for your life. Therefore, it’s unacceptable to ever text and drive. I cannot sit here and say to you, ‘It doesn’t matter’; because it matters deeply. Know my love and know the future that I see for you.”
My wife had a beautiful way of disciplining our kids with blessing. You know, when your kid is just doing that thing, and you’re just like, “I can’t even believe they did that. That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen in my life!” Everything in you wants to call out how dumb it was. Instead, she would just look at them and she said, “God gave you an excellent brain; I expect you to use it.” [Laughter]
So what blessing does—whether it is simply affirming and encouraging; or it is correcting, even, in our parenting—what blessing is saying is that: “Real change comes, not by withholding our blessing and dangling it like a carrot to try to motivate someone to change; real change comes by proclaiming someone’s identity so that, when they act in a way that does not align with that identity, they see it as a violation of who they really are.”
Ann: It’s good to define it.
Now, let’s talk about: “Why don’t we do it?”; because I have to tell you: Dave honored me beautifully and blessed me by saying that I am a joy-giver and I do speak life. And I will say that, probably for the first 30 years of my life, I never did. I think part of that is I came from a family that we were told: “We are winners,” and “We need to be leaders, and we need to win at all costs.” They didn’t say, “Try your best”; they said, “Be the best.”
So I grew up with this striving mentality, and I always saw people as being my competition.
Ann: And so why would I affirm them when I wanted to one-up them? So if I saw one of my friends that looked really cute that day, or I thought she was amazing, I wouldn’t say that; because she was my competition.
I found that striving of always trying to be the best was exhausting. I thought these wonderful things about people; but I also saw my own insecurity and thought: “Oh, I’m not nearly as good as them,” or “I don’t measure up to that.” So when we talk about—“Why don’t we give it?”—does it have anything to do with things like that?
Alan: Absolutely, it does; because unless we find ourselves so deeply secure in the love of God, it’s just hard to find ourselves affirming another. We are, on the whole/in our sin nature, self-absorbed.
Alan: As soon as sin came into the world, so did shame—so they began covering themselves—and that’s where all of the competition began and the jealousy. The gospel of Jesus Christ changes everything; because God has loved us perfectly and infinitely, and we are infinitely rich in Christ.
The first thing I would say is—if someone’s struggling to have the motivation to bless or has those feelings as you’ve so honestly shared that you once struggled with, which is the norm for most people—start with this: “Soak your life in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
If you tend to hear the gospel message like this: “Be good, serve, give, and God will love you,” you will never have it! But if you hear the gospel for what it is: “God loves you infinitely, has blessed you with every spiritual blessing in Christ; therefore, receive Him and serve Him.” If you get the order right, it will change everything. So soak in the gospel. I think that’s one of the things that we just need to do—and I think that we all need that—I need it every day of my life!
The other thing is we just haven’t learned it; we haven’t seen it modeled. And so I think a lot of people think it’s not going to work. That’s a big part of the reason I wrote the book; I just want to convince people: “This works!”
Alan: And part of it is I’ve raised my kids in this. I’ve seen it; I know it: it works! By that, what I mean is that there’s a tendency to think that: “If I affirm this person, they’ll quit trying.”
Ann: Yes! “It will enable them!”
Alan: “It will enable them.”
Ann: I totally used to think that about Dave, like, “I’m not going to praise Him! He’ll think I’m satisfied, and it will enable him to stay the same!”
Dave: And yet, the whole time she was critiquing me and criticizing me, it didn’t work!
Ann: It didn’t work!
Alan: It doesn’t work; it doesn’t work, because it’s not God’s way.
Alan: See, honestly, really, that’s hell’s way—to withhold in order to produce an anxiety to try to make someone—so in other words, when we withhold our blessing, what we’re doing—let’s say it’s to our child—is we’re essentially saying, “I want you to worry.
Alan: “I want you to worry about whether I’ll really bless you; and then out of that fear and worry, you’ll try harder.” Well, guys, worry and fear are the farthest thing from the heart of God!—right?—that’s what hell trades in. What heaven trades in is love and faith.
I’m thinking of Julia Mancuso, who when she was a little girl, dreamed of being an Olympic athlete. She drew a picture of herself—a little crayon picture of herself—skiing down a hill; and at the bottom, it said something like, “Julia Mancuso wins the gold!” You know, she went on to win, I think, two or three golds in the downhill. That story came out in one of the Olympics; you know, all those great stories that come out.
Dave: Oh, yes.
Alan: Well, I think about that story, where she got a vision of: “This is who I am!” Now, what did that do? Did that make her quit trying? Did that make her say, “Well, I’m going to get a gold medal, so I’ll just go sit on the couch during my teenage years, and eat potato chips, and play video games? No, no! Maybe some other kids are doing that, but she sees herself as an Olympic athlete; so she’s out in the weight room, and on the slopes, and in training, and up early in the morning. In other words, blessing instills hope. And hope empowers us and changes us.
It’s when we become hopeless that we quit trying.
Dave: Yes, exactly.
Ann: Well, talk about the tadpole.
Alan: Yes! [Laughter] Well, isn’t it one of the funniest stories ever? Our daughter came home, when she was little, with this tadpole that we were supposed to, you know, for a science project, watch it grow legs and a tail and become a frog. So all these instructions we got with it; we got a bowl of spinach, and we had to feed it this bowl of spinach. [Laughter] My wife was like, “Ugh, this tadpole.” I’m like, “Honey, it won’t be here long. When it becomes a frog, we release it in the wild.”
So a week goes by, and nothing; two weeks go by, and we’re still feeding spinach. We’ve got this tadpole. Three weeks go by; a month goes by. I mean, two months go by, and we just have a tadpole! We bump into Abby’s little preschool teacher; and we say, “Hey, Nicky, when is this tadpole going to…”
Ann: “We’ve got a defect!”
Alan: Yes! “When does the metamorphosis happen?!” And she said, “What are you talking about?” I said, “Our tadpole is just a tadpole!” She said, “No, that’s not possible; everybody’s already became a frog. It doesn’t happen like that.” I said, “No, we’ve got a tadpole!” You can’t make this stuff up! This is just/sometimes, God just gives me something just so I can see it; you know? He did it for the prophets; He had weird things happen just to teach them something. [Laughter]
Our daughter goes to some summer camp or something, and they all get an aquatic frog. She brings home the frog. And we were all like, “Okay, great; we had a tadpole; and now, we’ve got a frog.” So at first, I was like, “Put the frog in with the tadpole,” but we were looking at how big this tadpole is by now, and we’re afraid the tadpole might eat the frog! So instead, we put the frog bowl next to the tadpole bowl; and that’s it.
The next day, my little girl Abby is on the phone; I’m at church, and she’s calling me. She is so excited. She said, “Daddy, daddy, daddy!” I said, “What? Calm down.” She said, “You’re not going to believe it!!” I said, “What?” She said, “That tadpole became a frog!” I said, “What?!” I just dropped everything; I went running home. Y’all, I’m not making this up! Overnight, that tadpole had sprouted some legs, dropped its tail, and within two days was a full frog. And so we always declared: “It just needed to see what it was supposed to be. [Laughter] Once you could see it, you could be it!” I think we’re a lot like that.
Ann: Oh, that’s a sermon:—
Ann: —“Once you see it, you can be it.”
Alan: If you can’t see it, you can’t be it. But if you can paint a picture of: “This is actually who you are,” and “This is what life in Christ looks like,” and “This is how I see who you are,” I think what happens is people rise up to meet the vision that’s spoken over their lives.
So don’t ever think that blessing is something you dangle, like a carrot, to try to motivate; that just creates fear. What blessing does is it releases love, which casts out fear; and that builds faith. We thrive in an environment of hope and faith, and that’s what blessing imparts.
Shelby: Many of us can probably remember a point in time in our lives when we were younger, when an older person—teacher, a parent, or whatever, family member—looked at us and kind of raised the bar in our life that was positive and made us want to jump higher/made us want to not settle for what we were settling for. Dave and Ann Wilson have been talking with Alan Wright today, and he has unpacked for us how to bless our kids: how to really raise the bar in their life and release them into the blessings God has for their life. We can shape our kids and the future in so many wonderful ways. Let’s do it through the avenue of blessing.
Alan Wright has written a book called The Power to Bless: How to Speak Life and Empower the People You Love. Of course, we love our kids; of course, we love our family members. This is the kind of resource that can really help shape us into men and women who are people of blessing: to our spouse, to our friends, to our neighbors, and to our kids as well. We want to make this book available to you as a way to say, “Thank you for your gift to FamilyLife Today.”
If you head over to FamilyLifeToday.com, and make a donation of any amount all this week, as a “Thank you,” we will send you a copy of Alan Wright’s book, The Power to Bless. FamilyLife Today is listener-supported. When you donate, you’re making FamilyLife Today possible and available in your community in fresh, new ways. Thanks, in advance, for your support. Again, you can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com or by calling 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
If this blessing conversation has been a blessing to you, or any of the FamilyLife programs have been helpful for you, we’d love for you to share today’s podcast with a friend, or a family member, a neighbor. And wherever you get your podcast, you can really advance the gospel effort of what we’re doing at FamilyLife Today if you’d scroll down and rate and review us.
Now, tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson are going to talk, again, with Alan Wright on how to be a light and bless people you don’t actually know. It might be easy to bless the people we do know; but he’s going to be talking about how to bless, seemingly, strangers.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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