I Feel Lucky

WHAT’S GOD GOT TO DO WITH IT?

For a long time I’ve been bothered by the difference between the expressions “I’ve been lucky” and “I’ve been blessed”—and also by the similarities between them. Often the phrase “I’ve been blessed” feels true to me, and I have no doubt, as a believer, that it is true. But it can also seem smug and have an implication I don’t like: I was blessed that the tree fell on him, not on me. The arrow hit the fellow next to me—guess he wasn’t so blessed.

At one level the phrases are simply two ways of saying the same thing, but by bringing God into the picture you seem to be claiming more than you have any right to. That’s why I am more comfortable with “lucky” than with “blessed.” My marriage is intact and happy after decades, but I have friends who married good people whose marriages did not survive. When I think of all the boneheaded things I’ve done that could have ended a marriage, or lost friends, or alienated children, I feel more lucky than blessed. It would be arrogant and presumptuous to assume that God’s mantle was over me and not over some of those I know who have not been so—well, lucky.

The difference between saying “I’ve been blessed” and “I’ve been lucky” is that the latter puts an emphasis on the receiving end. “Fortunate” is a substitute for “lucky.” There really isn’t gratitude here, except of a generalized, secular sort. For saying “I’m lucky” is a form of gratitude directed at no one in particular. You are looking at the rest of...

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About the Author

John Garvey is an Orthodox priest and columnist for Commonweal. His most recent book is Seeds of the Word: Orthodox Thinking on Other Religions.