Christian author Julie Saffrin gives the BlessBack Challenge, challenging both young and old to give thanks to all those who have positively impacted your life. It all started with her book, released in 2012, but the moral still rings true. Julie Saffrin has done the research, and here’s what she has to say.
At Thanksgiving, many Christian believers take an opportunity to give thanks for their many blessings. It is just one day, out of 365 each year,that we specifically think of being thankful.What if we could cultivate an “attitude of gratitude” all year round? What if we were to think more often of being thankful and “BlessBack®”?
“I wrote BlessBack® because I saw the power of gratitude in my own life,” said author Julie Saffrin, who has written a book of the same name.
“A number of years ago now, I went through a period of time where I was very depressed. On one of my blue days, something compelled me to go into my bedroom closet. I went and pulled from a shelf a box stuffed with thank-you notes and letters I had received over the years. It was a dreary day but I spent the afternoon reading every card, every note. When I had finished, I was astonished at how I felt. No longer was I sad. I was filled with joy over having experienced the power of expressed gratitude,” Saffrin told ASSIST News Service in a recent interview.
“I researched the subject of the power of expressed thankfulness. I was stunned to learn this was an actual research subject, namely the field of positive psychology. The more I discovered, the more I saw the power of gratitude and its effects not only on the person receiving gratitude but as well to the person giving it. I read story after story not only of individuals’ lives being changed but also communities and peoples around the world. I compiled my research and wonderful, transforming discoveries into a book, “BlessBack®: Thank Those Who Shaped Your Life.”
Saffrin said her aims and goals for BlessBack® are that others may encounter the effects of practicing gratitude.
“My prayer for BlessBack® is and has always been for those who come away from reading it, to choose to live The BlessBack Life. What I mean by that is that readers will choose every day counter a negative thought life by intentionally living a gratitude-filled life. John 8:32 says, ‘If the Son has set you free, you shall be free indeed.’ And yes, as Christians, we are freed from sin, but we are the ones who must rein in our thought lives, take every thought captive, as Paul tells us to in 2 Corinthians 10:5.
“We have anywhere from 10- to 60,000 negative thoughts each day! A significant way to block those negative thoughts is to do something positive. By looking back over our lives and thinking about positive people in our past then writing them notes of thanks and telling them the specific impact they have had on our lives is one way to shift and take control of our mindsets.”
How did God prepare Saffrin to write this book?
“I have always been an encourager, one who seeks to have a positive mental outlook, and tries to give others a good day. I also am a ‘note writer’ – more so nowadays by e-mail. But once upon a time a woman was going through a blue period. She didn’t want to go outside. She didn’t want to shape a point of view or risk being wrong. What friends she had didn’t get called much. That person was me, and going through that dark stage of my life and discovering that I could train my brain to have a positive mental outlook — just by reading thank-you notes I had received — confirmed the power of gratitude and how capitalizing on its aftereffects can and does transform one’s life. I am living proof of it.”
Saffrin said a “BlessBack” is an expression of thanks to those in your past who have had a positive influence in your life. It is an exchange of blessing between two parties: the giver and the receiver. As you live the BlessBack life, you will discover that at various times you may be a giver and at other times a receiver; sometimes you may experience both giving and receiving at the same time.
She noted: “BlessBacks are different from random acts of kindness. Most often, a random act of kindness is being kind to someone in a spontaneous way. A BlessBack, on the other hand, can certainly be spontaneous in its delivery, but its intent is to specifically direct and give a blessing to someone in your past who was or is significant to you.”
A BlessBack has two parts:
The first part asks you to examine your life — from as long ago as when you were a child to as recently as yesterday — and look for the people who are or were a positive influence.
The second part involves connecting with these influential people to give your thanks, and telling them specifically how they made your life better. Instead of paying kindnesses you’ve received forward, a BlessBack pays your thanks backward to the people who made a difference in your life.
Saffrin continued: “The actress Rosalind Russell wrote in her authobiography, ‘Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death.’ By practicing living a BlessBack Life, to bless and bless back, we can live deeply satisfying lives. We can, as it says in Romans 12:2, be transformed by the renewing of our minds. But we must be proactive about it. G. B. Stern said, ‘Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.’ To transform our minds daily we must express our thanks to those who have left a positive impression upon it.”
She shared some of the things you learned in writing this book.
“I learned a lot about the power we have to shape our thinking. About 50 percent of our minds are genetically set; another 10 percent of our brains have been affected by our circumstances. That leaves 40 percent of our brain malleable. We hold within us the power to every day choose to, as the psalmist wrote, ‘put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.’
The concept of retraining our brain to have a positive mindset and the power that lies therein, is astonishing to think about, really, she said, adding: “I also learned the exchange of blessing is just as powerful to the person giving thanks as it is to the person receiving it.”
While writing BlessBack, she had to confront self-doubt, Saffrin said. “Did I really have a book here — this was even after collecting more than 50 transformational stories that proved that yes, the power of gratitude is real. But I had a dream — which I talk about in the book. That dream is just as vivid to me today. Its essence was simply my saying ‘yes’ to what God had given me to write. What I needed to do was to park myself at a keyboard and do the work of getting it written.
“And I did.”
Saffrin has had some wonderful people say lovely words to her about the book.
“One woman, just this past weekend said she periodically picks it up to read a story to two, for encouragement. I was so moved by her sincere and expressed words. And just this month, a woman who owns Covet Crate, a subscription box service to professional women, reached out to me to include BlessBack in its November box, as their focus was on the power of gratitude. Talk about humbling! Two women’s stories in the book were contacted by their local newspapers to share their BlessBack stories. So very precious to me, indeed.”
Saffrin hopes this book will be used by individuals, communities and the world at large, “for all to see how precious each and every one of us are to God. We, the un-glamourous, the ordinary, are here for a purpose. I want others to imagine and step into the life God has destined for them. I want them to live the life Paul talks about in Ephesians 4:1-3, to ‘get out there and walk — better yet, run! — on the road God called [them] to travel.”
When she wrote BlessBack, part of Saffrin’s mental mindset shift was to write about “whatever.”
“I used to live a life that held this response in it when asked what I wanted to do, what I wanted to eat. ‘Whatever.’ Life has ceased to be meaningful to me. Now I life a shifted mindset of ‘whatever.’ It’s a mindset found in Philippians 4:8: ‘Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things….And the God of peace will be with you.’”
Julie’s motto is: “Give a BlessBack. Change your life. Change the world.”
“Kind words are jewels that live in the heart and soul, and remain as blessed memories years after they have been spoken,” Saffrin concluded, quoting Marvea Johnson.
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Click here to learn more about the author Michael Ireland