Blessed and highly favored is one of those religious sayings that I have always questioned. Does your good fortunes mean you’re favored over others? What about those who are down and out? What if their struggle or suffering is a lesson for others to learn? I hear people say it and I wonder if they believed it when they were at a low, or did some other biblical term suffice.*
When I hear the saying, I used to automatically think of Emmitt Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley. In her memoir, Death of Innocence, Till-Mobley wrote about the bond they had, the heart-wrenching pain of losing Emmitt, the unjust trial that followed and her decision to have an open-casket funeral that showed the ugliness of racism to the world. Her decision was a catalyst to the unfinished Civil Rights Movement. My grandmother says, “He won’t give you more than you can bear.” I believe she was favored for this task. Emmitt wasn’t the only victim of a heinous hate crime, but Mamie’s actions provided the fuel needed to make Blacks and others stand up (sit down) for their beliefs.
I don’t believe being highly favored is something that only reaps positive results, like a raise or free soda with a meal. According to the bible, we were all the equal and the Lord’s children. However, I was curious about this phrase so I went to a man of the cloth, Elder Nelvern Samuel, for some answers. After an hour and a half conversation, this is what I learned:
The religious term is derived from Mary and the Immaculate Conception. Mary was chosen to have Jesus (I knew that). Being blessed is not based on what you have done or going to do, it’s the recognition of being blessed like being thankful to see a new day. (OK, OK.) Being highly favored means you are chosen to fulfill a particular task. When it is spoken, it is a tool. (Oh, snap!) When someone says they are highly favored what they should mean is speaking their aspirations into fruition, sort of like a self-fulling prophecy but greater. The power of the tongue (speech) is manifesting and the earth is responding to it, however, you calling to God and acknowledging him accentuates your agency. (This reminds me of the Little Engine That Could mantra, “I think I can, I think I can,” but God is added to the mix.) So, you meet God half way. Got it? Not so fast.
One important thing to mention is that language has a life and so do words. Case in point, when was the last time you said “Gill!” and gave someone a gill? I’ll wait…Yeah, exactly. So what blessed and highly meant way back when, may not mean the same thing today or to other people. Words are defined and redefined to be inclusive and exclusive depending on person, time, and space.
Till-Mobley represents the mothers who had to bury their children of yesterday. Today, unfortunately we can name many mothers who have lost their children due to hate crimes— more specifically, extrajudicial killings. As the political climate heightens in America, Samaria Rice reminds me of Till-Mobley. At the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Rice’s absence from the Mothers of the Movement followed in the footsteps of Emmitt’s mother decision to have an open-casket funeral. She was telling the world, she was not going to conform to the political agendas that did not support police reform. Her absence spoke in volumes as the world watched.
It’s hard for me to think of parents who lost their children being highly favored in the same sense as getting a raise. However, how you use it is up to you, but I think its important to being aware of the phrase’s meanings.
*I once asked someone whom I went to college with what she meant by being blessed and highly favored, and her response was so shady I thought I was in a solar eclipse.