Empty Cliches?

with 7 Comments

Today, as I continued reading through Job, I was struck by two portions. The first was where Job’s triumphant statement that His redeemer lives. (Job 19:25-27.) In my opinion, this is one of the most powerful passages in scripture. We’ll talk about that passage tomorrow.

But for today, since we’ve been talking about listening, Job’s words, “How can your empty cliches comfort me?” pierced my heart! (Job 21:34) Cliches are over used easy answers.  Have you ever been grieving, or struggling through a deep problem and someone, well meaning of course, tells you “Oh God ‘s going to work this all out.” That is an example of an empty cliche. It’s not that there’s not an element of truth to that statement, it’s that it’s empty because it is absent of empathy. The person who gives empty cliches hasn’t taken the time to make the hurting person feel “felt”.  They brush aside the hurting person’s feelings. They don’t bother to feel the pain of the one hurting. One of my favorite Biblical examples of Jesus showing empathy is found in John 11:34. Jesus sees Mary and Martha weeping because their brother, Lazarus, has just died, Jesus knows that momentarily He will raise Lazarus back to life. Yet, knowing that He the Almighty God is going to make it all better, He stands there and weeps with them! I love that! The Almighty crawls into their suffering and weeps making Mary and Martha feel “felt.”

Think back over the last few weeks. Have you spoken an “empty cliche” to anyone? Or, think back to a time when you were suffering. Did any well meaning friend  toss an “empty cliche’ your way? I want to hear from you. As we share our stories we can all learn from them and grow.   Leave a comment on this particular entry and I will select one comment and send that person a Starbucks gift card for being willing to be honest.

7 Responses

  1. Brenda
    | Reply

    Yes, I have felt hurt by well-meaning cliches from those whom I know love me. Thankful to be learning to be at peace with silences, and to just “be”. I have heard it called “the ministry of presence.” my goal is to learn and practice empathetic listening. Those who have blessed me with that gift will never be forgotten. Thanks for writing and encouraging us, Becky!

  2. Rachel
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    As I’ve been at friends’ sides as they’re going through rough times, I have definitely heard myself say some of these things. Like Brenda, I have seen silence to so much more at times! Our words should be filled with meaning and truth and if someone just needs a shoulder to cry on, it can be best to be there for them and just show them that you are mourning with them.

    • admin
      | Reply

      Thanks, Rachel! I think we all use the empty cliches at times but it’s great to remind each other of how powerful silence can be isn’t it? Thanks for commenting!
      Becky

  3. Michelle
    | Reply

    We have been reeling as a family over a family member’s failed suicide attempt last week … so this topic is especially pertinent at the moment. Surprisingly, most of the people I have shared with have been very empathetic which reminds me that God has been so loving to me by surrounding me with great friends. For me, that has taken care of the couple of well-meaning, but not helpful comments that I have received … or have chosen not to receive ;). Thank you for this – I love the way Jesus responded to Lazarus’ sisters – that’s how I want to be as well. I think another thing that helps is to not expect everyone you confide in to respond like you would – people handle hard news differently, some empathize immediately, some ask lots of questions you can’t answer, and some immediately start quoting Scripture to you, etc. Anyway, thanks again for your insights on this passage!

    • admin
      | Reply

      Oh Michelle, I am so sorry! Suicide attempts are so difficult on families! Thank you for commenting in the midst of your pain.
      Becky

  4. admin
    | Reply

    Wow! I love that phrase “the ministry of presence” Great!!! Thanks, Brenda!

  5. Bonnie Rencher
    | Reply

    GUILTY! Thanks for the reminders on your blog to be good listeners as scripture tells us we should be. This week I listened as a friend went on and on about a situation. After a while I just said, “OK. You have a choice…you can either focus on the negative part of your situation or thank God for the positive part, which was a great answer to prayer!” As you can see, the gift of mercy is not my strong point…I really have to work at allowing God to work on me in that area! “He’s still workin’ on me…to make me what I ought to be!” (No Starbucks card needed…I’ve been rewarded just by participating on your blog!)

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