Currently, a friend of mine’s husband is going through a medical emergency. As he is battling, I am part of a texting conversation that includes updates from my friend’s mom. Now, aside from, obviously, being very concerned about my friend’s husband’s situation, which I will not dwell on here because I do not think that is fruitful, I am finding it interesting seeing how people react to a grave situation. We have all seen it before, all over facebook, emails, and other sources of communication: discussion of prayers, thoughts and hopes, and, so often, platitudes.
Oh, how I haaaaaaaate platitudes. (And I see I am not the only one). I guess I hate them primarily because they divert our attention away from reality, and give a false sense of comfort through the appearance of truth (because things become true simply by virtue of being repeated over and over, right?). They are born of mental laziness. They reveal an unwillingness to truly trudge through a problem and embrace its complexity, opting instead for a fatalistic relinquishing of control over our own lives. This is why, when people respond to our own misfortunes with platitudes, we sense that they don’t really care, though they are specifically trying to communicate that they do. Honestly though, it’s the mental laziness and fatalism that I hate more than anything, because the use of platitudes SHUTS DOWN AVENUES OF COMMUNICATION. They encourage us to stop wrestling with life’s problems, to give up control over how we solve them. They allow us to seek refuge in that which is comfortable, rather than that which is true. They presume to present universal answers, when in fact real solutions are always rooted in context.
So please, next time: let’s all just shut up with the platitudes.