Bless Their Hearts
For those of you from south of the Mason Dixon Line, it should be clear by now that I am a Northerner. The closest I ever came to living in the South was when I served on the edge of Appalachia in Southwestern Pennsylvania from 2007-2012. It was there that I learned from a Georgian about an expression that I thought was polite:
Bless his heart. Bless her heart. Bless their hearts.
It sounds sweet as peach pie, but it’s often meant to be vitriolic. The person saying it is speaking in disdain toward someone who they consider wrong, misguided, and/or too dumb to know better. I’ve been told this “nice meanness” is beginning to disappear but I am not convinced; I think it has morphed into other forms.
Over the decades as a church member and minister, it is amazing how many times I have heard people speak about concerns they have for others, only for it to turn into a way to report how wrong, misguided, or dumb the subject is as compared to the message deliverer. I guess this is why the authors of Proverbs, Psalms, and Leviticus, and the apostles Matthew (writing Jesus’ words), Paul, and Peter all speak about the dangers of what comes out of the mouth. But nobody does it better than the Lord’s brother, James:
No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, these things ought not to be so.