Joseph Cavanaugh III is a life coach who has written an interesting book called The Language of Blessing. In his work coaching people in discovering their God-given dreams, gifts and talents he has accumulated many insights into the process that he imparts to the reader. I will offer a few thoughts on the content with personal reflections, and then review strengths and weaknesses to the book.
The three parts of the book are:
- What is the Language of Blessing?
- The Barriers to Blessing
- Learning to Speak the Language of Blessing
God has planted within each of us a creative genius that is unique to us and can only be developed and expressed as we live in our true selves and turn away from what Cavanaugh calls the “cycles of false identity” (p.74ff). Through self-awareness, relational interaction and taking assessments (like Strengths Finder from Gallup) we can learn what our unique gifts and talents are and begin to move in them as we relate to others.
Living falsely (trying to be someone or something we aren’t) and not hearing the blessing from our family of origin are two obstacles that we face in learning our unique contribution to the world.
Personally, I was eager to read this book because I seem to be in a season of returning to questions having to do with my purpose in the world and in the church. Though some of what I encountered was disappointing, I resonated with the author in several key ways. Like the author, I did not receive the “blessing” growing up, and feel like much of my adult life has been spent in search of it. I appreciated the honesty that Cavanaugh displayed in discussing his own story.
Further, his discussion of “false identity” reminded me of the work I have done in going after (with the Spirit’s help) my false selves that prevent me from receiving and giving the love of God.
I also appreciated his discussion on how we as parents can bless our children so that they are free to live out of the scripts given them by God and not a script that we impose on them.
My chief criticism of the book has to do with what felt like the lack of depth in the material. Specifically, I was hoping for a much deeper biblical understanding of blessing in the story of God and how it affects our lives through Christ and his Cross. For example, blessing is a huge theme in the Abrahamic covenant.
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3 ESV)
This blessing comes to us through faith in Christ (Galatians 3:7-8). How does this redemptive blessing relate to the creational blessing that Cavanaugh talks about? I would have loved to see this teased out and developed.
Further, the “barriers” to blessing section had no discussion of sin (that I can recall), which surely is the greatest obstacle to blessing in both the redemptive and creational realms.
Cavanaugh puts a little too much stock (I think) in the taking of assessments in discovering one’s unique gifting. They are one helpful element, but just one piece of a redemptive relational pie.
Overall, the book is a helpful conversation starter, but not the deep resource I was hoping for.
Thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of review.