Foxcatcher and the Power to Bless

I recently watched Foxcatcher, the award-winning film based on true events. It tells the story of eccentric multimillionaire, John du Pont, and his recruitment of two Olympic gold medalists, Mark and David Schultz, to help coach U.S. wrestlers. It’s a painful tale, especially the tragic ending.

One of its poignant themes is what I call “a lack of blessing.” Though they come from starkly different classes, both du Pont and Mark Schultz share the same malady. Each of them is searching for an affirmation they never found in their family of origin. Each of them is trying to fill a hole that drives their personalities in unconscious ways.

No family is perfect. Most of us suffer a bit from what R.D. Laing called the “post hypnotic trance induced in childhood.” One sign of maturity is to not only grow beyond the limitations of our upbringing, but to embrace the lessons we learned in that struggle. I deeply admire women and men who overcome troubled beginnings and go on to live productive lives.

However, as a pastor I have also seen the addiction, depression, and grief that stem from early psychic damage. This is why I call all of us to exercise our POWER TO BLESS. Through our words and actions, we can help others slowly heal the scars they carry beneath the surface.

Years ago, Gary Smalley and John Trent wrote The Blessing: Giving the Gift of Unconditional Love and Acceptance. Using Isaac’s Old Testament blessing of Jacob as a model, the book suggests five elements of this treasure that we can shower on others:

  • meaningful touch,
  • words of love and acceptance,
  • attaching high value to them,
  • picturing a special future for them,
  • committing to our part in helping them fulfill that future.

Here is a blessing I recently gave my wife, Donna. Yes, I thought of it ahead of time. Yes, she knew it followed a model. She also knew every word is heartfelt.

After hugging her, I said: “Donna, I love you unconditionally. You have amazing qualities of mercy, patience, perseverance, and an ability to meet people on their terms. I believe that your work to obtain a college degree will not only come to fruition, but give you deep satisfaction. As your partner, I will do everything I can to support you.”

So simple, a mere moment, yet these blessings can make a miraculous difference, especially when others are facing circumstances that erode their trust in themselves, in others, and in God.

Friends, we have the power to bless others! We can wield it in our families, neighborhoods, workplaces, and churches. In this world that continually grades (and degrades) people according to societal standards, we can help them remember that they are created in God’s image, unique children of our Maker.

Early in Moby Dick, Ishmael is dealing with the harsh realities of life on a whaling ship. He says, “…however the old sea-captains may order me about—however they may thump and punch me about, I have the satisfaction of knowing that it is all right; that everybody else is one way or other served in much the same way— either in a physical or metaphysical point of view, that is; and so the universal thump is passed round, and all hands should rub each other’s shoulder-blades….”

So true! Let’s rub each other’s shoulder blades through our power to bless.

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