Meet the Platitude Sisters
I was engaging in my addiction the other day. Pinterest. (I know!) and I kept seeing the pins on pain. You know. The PINS. The “God never gives you more than you can handle, I must be a super hero” pin. And it just stuck with me and with me and with me. The first part, “God never gives you more than you can handle.” I already know I am a superhero. LOL. Not.even.close.
And then I was listening to the news and someone was talking about some tragedy and it being “God’s will.”
And then I was having lunch with a dear friend and she asked if I thought “everything happened for a reason.” (quotes mine)
Usually I just brush these things off as Unanswerable Things Not Worth My Time, but-sadly- my mind latched on to these three statements and the only thing left to do was purge them via the pen (or keyboard). It isn’t as simple as saying these are just platitudes spoken when we don’t know what to say. It troubles me that people actually think this way, because even if I cannot explain why, I have a thousand questions that lead me to believe they cannot be true.
God’s Will and the Load We Carry
Does God give us only what we can handle, does everything happen for a reason, is it God’s will that people should suffer? NO CHANCE. Malarkey, Baloney, Bull@#$%. In fact, I am often embarrassed to call myself a person of faith for fear that I be associated with people that believe these things. (I know that is totally my issue BTW).
When I got cancer, people told my 27 year old newly re-married mom that my sickness happened for a spiritual reason, that we wouldn’t be given more than we could handle, that it was God’s will. People have told me that my current condition is mine for a reason, God’s will, not more than I can handle. My current condition couldn’t be a result of the high dose chemotherapy agents I was given, drugs that were originally developed as chemical warfare, drugs that were and are derivatives of mustard gas. Right? God’s will is for small kids to be given mustard gas. Huh. wow. I cannot get behind that logic. And I am alive.
Okay. I am a small sample size. An N of 1 as we researchers say.
What about babies born on drugs, the kid I saw in the group home who was raped as an infant and tried to kill herself at 11 by eating broken glass and drinking bleach. What about sex trafficking?
But here is where the Sister’s logic really falls apart: Darfur
Darfur, Bangladesh, India, you get it.
Sometimes I think we who live in first world countries lose a bit of perspective. We (myself included) take our resources for granted. Not just money, but people, transportation, time spent not worrying about death, clean water, roads, even advil. I cannot imagine being able to believe God loved me while also believing he was willing me suffering or actively giving me pain. What purpose would I/do I see in watching kids die of starvation? Nope, the logic fails in life’s extremes.
Most of us live life in a range of comfort that is often tolerable. More tolerable than whole villages in some of these countries, maybe even more than most whole countries. Even those of us with illnesses. Wow, I wouldn’t make it outside my first world comforts. I don’t sweat in response to heat. When we went to China 10 years ago and visited some villages with no air conditioning, stoves, or plumbing I quickly realized that I would have been a beggar on the street moaning and hoping for charity had I not had the luck to be born here.
When you are in pain, that’s all there is. Just pain. No thought. No past. No future. No plans. No memory. No concentration. Just pain. Thought, intention, planning, and even the ability to form a prayer can be luxuries. When you are in that much pain, you feel alienated from God, untouchable and alone. I know I am not the only one to experience this. I was a shrink, I’ve been on both sides of the couch. I know.
And then there is that suicide bomber. (I said I had a lot of questions). That kid grew up in poverty and violence and was told that he would be with God if he obeyed his elders. I’ve spent more time than the average bear thinking about that kid. Over 30 years. I had it bad for 2 years and wanted to be with God. I cannot imagine being told my whole life of suffering that there was a ticket to Heaven and I should take it. And I cannot imagine how that kid would have any idea that his concept of God was different from someone else’s concept of God.
Did God give that kid more than he could handle, was it God’s will that drove that kid to become a suicide bomber (Yes, depending on which God??), did that happen for a reason?
It’s time to part with the three sisters. No matter your intention in naming them, they are troublemakers.
I was given an opportunity to see the Dalai Lama a bit ago. And one of the many things that I took away from the talks was his emphasis on compassion. He talked about how all major religions share a set of common values -love, forgiveness, faith, and compassion. These values are important to living a fulfilling life. He was a very compelling, charismatic and gentle man. If you ever get an opportunity to hear him, I would highly recommend.
In case you wondered, I do happen to be a person of faith. And my spiritual tent is large. I tend towards the God is Love and leave the judging to others category.
Since we have said goodbye to the Three Sisters, let us now welcome Compassion.
- Let’s be with others in their suffering and struggle and not put distance between us by trite sayings
- Let’s listen more to those who are different from us
- Let’s be kind to ourselves and just do what we can with what we have in the moment
- With every good and hard thing that has come our way (for reasons we do not know), let’s try to respond with gratitude
- When people around us get stuck, let’s reach a hand back and help them up instead of blaming or judging them
- Remember, we are all in this together 🙂