But what exactly does it mean to give a blessing? What actions and attitudes combine to make this biblical tool so uniquely effective?
The blessing as described in Scripture always included five elements:
Let's take a quick look at each of these.
Meaningful touch was an essential element in bestowing the blessing in Old Testament homes. So it was with Isaac when he went to bless his son. We read in Genesis 27:26 that Isaac said, "Come near now and kiss me, my son." This incident was not an isolated one. Each time the blessing was given in the Scriptures, a meaningful touch provided a caring background to the words that would be spoken. Kissing, hugging or the laying on of hands were all a part of bestowing the blessing.
Meaningful touch has many beneficial effects. The act of touch is key in communicating warmth, personal acceptance, affirmation, even physical health. For any person who wishes to bless a child, touch is an integral part of that blessing.
The second element of the blessing involves a spoken message — one that is actually put into words. In many homes today such words of love and acceptance are seldom received. Parents in these homes assume that simply being present communicates the blessing — a tragic misconception. A blessing fulfills its purpose only when it is actually verbalized — spoken in person, written down or preferably both.
For a child in search of the blessing, silence communicates mostly confusion. Children who are left to fill in the blanks when it comes to what their parents think about them will often fail the test when it comes to feeling valuable and secure. Spoken or written words at least give the child an indication that he or she is worthy of some attention. I learned this lesson on the football field.
When I began playing football in high school, one particular coach thought I was filled with raw talent (emphasis on raw!). He was constantly chewing me out, and he even took extra time after practice to point out mistakes I was making.
After I missed an important block in practice one day (a frequent occurrence), this coach stood one inch from my face mask and chewed me out six ways from Sunday. When he finally finished, he had me go over to the sidelines with the other players who were not a part of the scrimmage.
Standing next to me was a third-string player who rarely got into the game. I can remember leaning over to him and saying, "Boy, I wish he would get off my case."
"Don't say that," my teammate replied. "At least he's talking to you. If he ever stops talking to you, that means he's given up on you."
Many adults we see in counseling interpret their parents' silence in exactly that same way. They feel as though they were third-string children to their parents. Their parents may have provided a roof over their heads (or even a Porsche to drive), but without actual words of blessing, they were left unsure of how much they were valued and accepted.
Abraham spoke his blessing to his son Isaac. Isaac spoke a blessing to his son Jacob. Jacob gave a verbal blessing to each of his twelve sons and to two of his grandchildren. When God blessed us with the gift of his Son, it was his Word that "became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). God has always been a God of words.
"But I don't yell at my children or cut them down like some parents," some may say. Unfortunately, the lack of negative words will not necessarily translate into a verbal blessing.
To see the blessing bloom and grow in the life of a child, we need to verbalize our message. Good intentions aside, good words — spoken, written and preferably both — are necessary to communicate genuine acceptance.