The Many Nuances of “Bless Your Heart”……..

I’ve been a southern girl all my life…so the correct use of ‘Bless Your Heart’ has always  come naturally to me. I’ve been able to read the undertones since birth. 😉

Recently on my trip to Atlanta I met some wonderful new friends at the Haven Conference…some from the south, some from the north.  {I love the North… of our favorite places is Vermont!}

When one of them was sharp enough to notice that when someone says ‘Bless Your Heart’ it didn’t always mean the same thing as it appears to on the outside….I knew a ‘Bless Your Heart’ lesson was in store.  {It can be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, in other words.}

You see, here in the South we believe in being polite, even if it kills us…so sometimes when we really want to say something nasty, we just say “Bless your heart” because it makes us feel better.

I highly suggest that if you are not trained and well-acquainted with this powerful phrase that you do not use it…..many people have done that and, sad to say, never lived it down.

Here’s the quick lesson that some of us gave our new friends in Atlanta last week:

Some of the Many Uses of ‘Bless Your Heart’

Example:  When someone walks into a room wearing a distasteful outfit and someone says “Bless her/his heart” … it means: “That poor thing has the tackiest taste in the world!” or it could even be more specific as in “Good grief, those pants make her bottom look like it’s dragging the ground!”

When, let’s say, a family member calls and tells you of something stupid another family member has done there are several “Bless her/his heart”s and this means: “Well, even though they don’t have enough sense to get out of a wet paper bag, we still love them.”

When someone you love and care about gets hurt or has something bad happen to them and you say “Bless your heart”…. it means “Oh, I am so sorry you are going through this, I wish I could take it away and make things better.”

It can be a form of empathy and used as a big hug…. as in when a friend calls and tells you about how bad her job is, and the kids are going crazy, and the dog just destroyed the house….. we say “Bless your heart”….and it means:  “Honey, I hate that you’ve had a bad day, but I’m glad it’s you and not me!”

And then one of the biggest ways southerners use “Bless your heart”….is a way to identify each other.  You pretty much know where someone came from when they use this powerful phrase. You also know where someone came from if they use it incorrectly. 🙂 {And you appropriately say “Bless. your. heart.”}

Now, this is definitely an abbreviated lesson….just in a nutshell.  There are many other ways to use it, and the nuances are many….for instance: when it is said through clenched teeth, drawn out slowly, with a squeal, etc…..but, for any of you that are not familiar with it, I don’t want to overwhelm you.

I am proud to say that we had our new friend using this lovely phrase 90% correctly within two days.  She was a quick learner. 😉  Only a few stumbles…but we quickly said “Bless your heart!” and covered for her.

She also had a question about the phrase “Fixin’ to”……whew!  That’s a whole other lesson.  I’ll have to tackle that on another day.

Bless ALL of your hearts today~

{and I mean that in the best, most loving way}


22 thoughts on “The Many Nuances of “Bless Your Heart”……..

    • Yes! You’ve got it! I’m so proud. Or, it could me….”Bless her heart…I wish I had dry-rotted paint clothes so I could win Annie Sloan brushes, too.” hee!hee!

  1. This cracks me up! I was exposed to the many meanings of “Bless Your Heart” when I married into a Southern family (I’m originally from Indiana). Now I know ALL about it as my mother in-law says it often. (Hopefully not about me though! Unless it’s in the genuine “I’m sorry you’re hurting” sort of way!). Love this post.

  2. Daune… “Bless your heart” for writing this post… meaning that I love that you are a world class educator in all things Southern and you know that others need an education! Miss you!

    Take care,


  3. Daune,
    What a wonderfully fun post to read!! Love that you share these pearls with us!! Being a West coast girl, but originally from Canada, I have this knack for picking up phrases and accents of all kinds…this is good lesson for me to read..Although, I don’t believe, as an adult I have ever used this one without it being genuinely sincere… Here’s hoping I don’t alienate anyone! Looking forward to more Lessons from the South!! Hugs,

  4. rotflmbo, Bless your little heart for doing this post, it made my day 🙂 Now how ’bout a post of the verbage of ya’ll and down yonder…lol waving hi from the hot hills of North Carolina 🙂

  5. Oh that looks so good.We missed picking strawberries again this year.They are only around a short time here.And we missed out opportunity.Have a great weekend.

  6. I am proud to claim that I am said Northerner! Maybe you could teach a special session at Haven next year! Now I’m fixin’ to go bless someone’s heart!

    Take care my funny friend!

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