“A platitude is a trite, meaningless, or prosaic statement, generally directed at quelling social, emotional, or cognitive unease.”
“God won’t give you more than you can handle.” This line was the title of a blog article I posted written by a Christian minister who was told this by people due several challenges that he and his wife were dealing with. It started a short discussion of other platitudes that people hear. And it was a topic I felt I needed to expand on.
The problem with platitudes is not that they might be true, it’s that they are a quick and easy way for the person to say who watching someone deal with these challenges and they don’t know what else to say. By issuing a platitude, they can then pat themselves on the back and feel that they did something. But platitudes usually do more damage than good. Instead of a platitude, action is usually a much better way to help.
“Everything happens for a reason”. I personally believe this is true. But I have to be the one to decide that and what that might be, but not be told what that reason is by someone else. Because my reason might be totally different than someone else’s and for some people, they might not want or need a reason at all. It’s not up to anyone to decide if this is true for anyone else. Even though I believe it (I’d rather have a reason than have something happen randomly), it’s not up to me to decide what that reason it for someone else.
“What doesn’t kill me will only make me stronger.” Again, while this may be true, that’s not up to you to decide this for anyone else. The idea of what is strong is very subjective.
“It’s God’s will…” I personally have a problem with this one as makes me feel I’m nothing but a puppet under someone else’s whim. I was told this with every challenge I faced.
“Satan is testing you.” I was actually told this one when my daughter died.. by the pastor’s wife. I felt like I was a pawn in a chess game.
“It’s all apart of God’s plan for you.” Another one I have a personal problem with.. why make any decisions for yourself, if someone else is doing it? And if being raped, having my daughter die, getting cancer is all apart of God’s plan.. I demand a re-write.
“Time heals all wounds.” Again, while this MIGHT be true, it doesn’t heal all wounds, they are still with you. And it doesn’t do anything for the pain of the wound at the present time. However, I do believe that time allows you to learn to deal with the wound.
“I will pray for you.” While prayer can be good for the person doing it (for themselves) or even in a united effort to help someone, like in a prayer circle, provided the person that is being prayed for is on board with it. Just saying “I will pray for you” is an easy way out and doesn’t actually help anyone else. Like praying to end cancer or praying to end world hunger or homelessness, doesn’t do anything at all. These things take action. If you want to help someone, be there to listen to their fears and grief. Fix them a cup of tea. Rub their feet. Hold their hand or their head as they vomit. Just do something. You don’t have to say anything at all.
“The good die young.” I was told this one too… oh, well, in that case, I just won’t grieve for my loss.. because “God called her home”… and “it’s all apart of God’s plan” so I should celebrate her death, not mourn. Again, while I do believe that people die when it’s their time, that doesn’t make their death any easier to take. Grief is a process and each person has the right to decide how their grief will proceed and the length of time it will take. It’s rarely the same for each person.
“It could be worse…” Of course it could, but that doesn’t mean what is happening right now isn’t painful. When my children and I were in the car accident, my mother said, “At least no one died”… so I should be grateful. But I had just been told that I was going to lose my leg and I would never walk again, and that my children were in the hospital and I couldn’t go to them to comfort their own fears… so I felt I had every right to be sad and angry about the situation we were in.
“Just think about how much worse other people have it.” Yes, they are and if given time I will realize that on my own. But this just negates the pain and suffering that you are dealing with at the time, more guilt. It’s like when you were a kid and you didn’t eat your dinner, and your mother said, “think of all of the starving children in China (or India, or where ever). Feeling guilty because starving children who didn’t have enough food never helped those starving children, and eating all of your dinner didn’t either.
“You deserve what you are getting.” This usually comes from someone who doesn’t approve of your lifestyle or choices. Again, I heard this after my daughter died. “If I hadn’t turned my back on the church, God wouldn’t be punishing me.” The irony of this was that when she died, I was a very devout, active, church-going Christian, so it had nothing to do with my being a Pagan later and an Atheist now. And it was my church family that turned their backs on me, literally, when they shunned me and I left religion for good.
“Stop whining, everyone goes through this!” I was told this when I got cancer for the third time. When I was in chemo, I kept reading about people who blithely went from chemo to work without any side effects at all. These stories made me feel like a total failure because chemo caused so many side effects for me there were times I didn’t think I would survive the treatment. This platitude just made it worse. And then I read an article by Melissa Etheridge about when she was going through chemo where she talked about how sick she was. Suddenly, I didn’t feel alone about losing my hair, the bone pain and the constant nausea. She became my hero.
The worst one of all…
“Hate the sin, love the sinner.” Probably the most damaging, judgmental crap of all time. Who is to decide what the sin is and who is committing a sin?