Misery loves company, and cliches. Each of the following sayings contain some truth. Such phrases become trite perhaps because they’re memorable or rhyming. The problem I’ve noticed is they use a lick and a promise to avoid complexity or conflict. Some expressions bring pat answers to felt needs.
Look, I know most people probably have an attachment to at least one of the following sayings. And, you may have heard someone take issue with these just because of their cynicism or negativity. Don’t get ruffled about me picking on these favorites. It’s simply a way to consider their judicious use, or even to prompt fresh and thoughtful alternatives. I’m not saying never to use them (don’t reinvent the wheel); just avoid misusing them–and putting your foot in you mouth.
Consider these standouts…
God said it, I believe it, that settles it.
The upside of this expression is how it reflects childlike faith. Downside? It shortcuts to a high view of scripture by avoidance. Simple trust is a life-giving ideal; but it shouldn’t always trump difficulties people find in scripture. Many objections have more to do with one’s past than one’s intellect. Careful not to squelch honest wrestling with a wet-blanket expression.
Love the sinner, hate the sin.
This common affirmation is a simplified version of St. Augustine’s important organizing principle: “With love for mankind and hatred of sins.” Ghandi borrowed it as a key to his leadership and quoted it in his autobiography.
This expression has helped people move towards difficult relationships with greater humility. So what’s the problem? Lately I’ve heard it directed at marginalized people in a condescending way. This saying elegantly addresses how the dividing line between good and evil runs through the human heart. But we must take care not to use it dismissively, ignoring the complexity of the human condition.
God won’t put on you more than you can handle.
I believe this expression is derived from a passage in scripture, “God won’t tempt you beyond what you can bear without providing a way out” (1 Cor. 10:13). Since “tempt” and “test” are closely related, people use this expression during a crisis, losing the context of “moral temptation.” It easily can become a platitude of false hope. A young widow in grief does not need to hear how God has equipped her to go it alone. On the contrary: she may need to be shown the love of God in action, when a broken world has broken her heart.
Sometime God may even put on us what is necessary to drive us to Himself. As C.S. Lewis notes, “Pain is God’s megaphone to wake up a sleeping world.”
Everything happens for a reason.
While we must affirm the attempt to find purpose, the vague nature of this one misses the mark. Some things are just plain evil. Some events may never come to resolution in this life. Scripture does not promise to make sense of every twist and turn. While life is lived forward but understood backward, we should count on some mystery to remain. “Now we see as in a mirror dimly; soon face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12).
What cliches have rubbed you wrong? (Comment button, next to the title)