Larry Efird: Be blessed?
Here in the South, we use a number of expressions — some of them that state exactly what we mean and others as euphemisms for what we really think. I’ve heard “Bless your heart” used as an empathetic gesture of compassion, but it can also mean anything but “bless” your heart if the truth were known.
Another expression that I recently pondered over was what it means to be “blessed out.” I checked a reliable dictionary I have on phrases and fables and how certain expressions made it into the English language, but it didn’t help very much.
The closest thing I could find was if a person said, “I’ll be blest if I do that!” which when interpreted actually meant, “ No way will I do that!” (profanity excluded) I can easily imagine a character in a Dickens novel using such an expression, and Dickens would have known full well what he wanted his character to be saying without really saying it. He was that clever. Maybe that’s why I like him so much.
Since my childhood, I’ve heard people say on occasion, “He really blessed me out!” or “She blessed her out!” We also say, “He got told off,” meaning much the same thing. But where and why did “bless me out” begin as a way to put someone in his or her place, and most likely to put them down in the process?
I know many teachers who have been cursed at by students (and parents) at some point in their careers. Some have even been cursed by administrators. (Those teachers probably took that as a sign to start looking for another job.)
I’m not passing judgment on profanity because I’ve had my own moments when no other word would work to relieve frustration. But profanity-laced tirades usually indicate a deeper problem — especially when directed toward those in authority.
In 30 years, I’ve thankfully only been cursed at or cursed out a handful of times by a disgruntled student. When it happens, I usually wonder what could make a child so angry at the world that he or she would need to curse the very people who are trying to help them?
I’d like to say that if someone curses me out, I could totally ignore it and go on. But I’m human, I guess. It does bother me and it takes time to get over, especially when I’m trying to pour my life and experience into my students simply to encourage them to desire positive things in their lives.
As I was still reeling and fighting off the anger of having been spoken to in this manner by a troubled student, I was reminded of the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
I’m certainly not a prophet and I’m sure that I’ve deserved rudeness in my career because I’ve also been rude in a moment of weakness, but to be cursed for trying to do the right thing stings — not a little, but a lot.
Teachers can’t always “be nice” but we are not looking for ways to ruin our students’ days or their lives. We are trying to help them. I find comfort in the fact that people cursed Jesus and his disciples too.
One of the hardest lessons in life for adults and kids is that sometimes, life doesn’t reward you for doing the right thing. It can actually put you down. But that’s no reason to give up or give in and curse back at the world when it curses you. .
I’ve adopted a new philosophy. Whenever I’m “blessed out” in the future, whether there is profanity involved or not, I’m going to consider myself “blessed out” in a good sense. I will try to consider their cursing a blessing, because I know I must be doing something right.
According to the Bible anyway.
Larry Efird teaches at A.L. Brown High School in Kannapolis.