“Bless your heart, darlin’!” Elinda Lou was so sweet when I told her of my ailment. Since we live in a fast-growing area of Alabama, it doesn’t surprise us anymore when we need to explain ourselves to friends who have moved here from far away, and this was no exception because Tina from Toronto was horrified and told us she thought “Bless your heart” meant something terrible.
I think someone who wears flip-flops to church weddings must have started the rumor that “bless your heart” was an insult. In rare cases, it may be true, but in most instances, it’s still a genuine, sweet, earnest plea for God to look down with favor and bless someone. Bless them up one side and down the other and all the way inside to their very heart.
Honestly, if you have recently relocated to the South, I’m here to tell you, when most of us say, “bless your heart,” we mean it in a good way. Those who have hidden meanings behind blessing a heart are either mean-to-the-bone or just reacting to being pushed to the limit by an insensitive person, which I’m sure you’d never be.
“I just can’t seem to keep weight on” said Tiphany Rae. “It’s so hard to find clothes that fit, seeing as how my legs are so long and my waist is so small.” A sarcastic and sharp “bless your heart” was all the full-figured clerk, who was working a full shift after teaching middle school all day, could say. She immediately felt bad for not turning the other cheek and responding with kindness the way she was taught — but dang it, that whiny Tiphany Rae had stomped on her last nerve.
Chipping your tooth on peanut brittle, getting a hitch in your get-a-long, or having your mother-in-law visit for the third time in one month are all legitimate reasons to have your heart sincerely blessed. Backing into your husband’s car in the driveway is a definite heart-blessing worthy situation — not that I’d know anything about that.
Our region’s booming growth has caused our familiarity with one another to be stretched and newcomers may be suspicious of our blessings, but I swear with my hand on my pearls, when we recognize you to be a good person, we’ll embrace you and surprise you with new ways of showing love. Casseroles when you are sick and zucchini on your doorstep will come later, but the sincere, “bless your heart” is still the first strike of fondness used by the nicest of people.
So, newcomers, don’t be offended if we say, “bless your heart.” With time, and a little practice, you’ll be able to tell who really means it and who doesn’t. If the blessing you receive is the least bit snide, ask yourself if you’ve rambled on about how easy it is to drive in the snow or why, for the love of Pete you can’t get a good bagel/pizza/taco around here. If you’ve played nicely and the blessing still feels snippy, then I’d advise you to associate with a more civilized crowd. Life is too short to hang out with people who dole out insincere heart blessings.