Stupid Phrases for People in Crisis
The following blog was written by Marilyn R. Gardner on her page (communicatingacrossboundariesblog.com) and we are appreciative of her permission to pass on what she has written to our readers. Her words come from the same wisdom taught by Jim Kok on 'what to say' and 'what not to say'.
1. God will never give you more than you can handle. While some may believe it is theologically correct, depending on your definitions, it is singularly unhelpful to the person who is neck-deep in a crisis, trying to swim against a Tsunami. A wonderful phrase recently came from Support for Special Needs. They suggest changing this from “God will never give you more than you can handle” to “Let me come over and help you do some laundry." This strikes me as even more theologically correct.
2. It gets better. Yes, yes it does. But right then, it’s not better. And before it gets better, it may get way worse.
3. When God shuts a door, he opens a window. Maybe, but maybe not. Maybe he just shuts a door. Maybe there is no window. There was no window for Job. There was a cosmic battle that raged as he sat in distress. There might not be a window. And if Job’s friends had kept their silence, perhaps God would not have told Job to pray for them at the end of the narrative.
4. Did you pray about it? Again – theologically correct. “Don’t worry about anything, instead, pray about everything…” but in a crisis, you don’t heap guilt onto pain and suffering. At a time of deep pain in my life, someone said this to me. I looked at him in silence, and then with a shaky voice I said: “We haven’t been able to pray in three months–so no, we haven’t prayed about it.” I was in so much pain– it was like he had slapped me. Pray for the person, but please, please leave the clichés at home.
5. God is good – all the time. Another one that is technically theologically correct. But is it helpful to say this when someone has just lost a child and is screaming at Heaven? Is it helpful to say this to the person who just had their fifth miscarriage? Is it helpful to say this to the woman going through a divorce, because her marriage could not hold up under the stress of a special needs child? They may say it, and we can nod our heads in agreement. But for us to say this from a place that is calm and safe will probably not be helpful.
6. But for the grace of God go I. “But why you? Why do you get that grace and not me? Why am I the one in the crisis? Was God’s grace witheld from me?” Those are valid responses to that phrase. I understand the phrase, and I’ve used it myself, but it doesn’t help the person who is in deep pain.
7. Don’t worry. God’s in Charge. Yeah? Well, he’s not doing a very good job then is he? God is in control, but it brings up some serious theological implications about God’s role in the crisis. Instead of a theology of suffering, we might want to think about a fellowship of suffering.
8. Maybe God needed to get your attention. Thank God no one ever said this to me during times of crisis – because I might have to punch them in the face with a knife. That’s all.
9. Maybe it happened for a reason. Remember what I said about punching someone in the face with a knife? Yeah – that.
10. Just call me if you need anything. While I want to appreciate this, the fact is that people in crisis usually don’t have the ability to call, so they won’t. Even if you don’t know someone well, you can bring them a meal or drive them somewhere.
11. I could never go through what you’re going through. Come again my friend?? This does not comfort. A false elevation of the character and ability to cope of the person going through the crisis only serves to further wound and isolate. The one who is going through a crisis longs to be on the other side. They wake up and breathe deeply, only to remember the awful reality of their situation, and wish they didn’t have to go through it.
12. When I think of your situation, I’m reminded how blessed I am.
No. No. No. First off, this is theologically completely incorrect. The beatitudes heap blessing on those that mourn, on those who are meek, on those who are poor in spirit — not on those who are safe, secure, financially stable, and proud. Those in crisis are not an illustration of how blessed everyone else is. In the counter intuitive, upside down way of the Kingdom of God, blessing looks completely different than what we in the West have made it to mean. There are big problems with our use of the word and concept of blessing.
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At my age ’Getting lucky’ means walking into a room and remembering what I came in there for.