Everyone uses platitudes: here’s why I don’t

Spiritual development is like hiking. You have to start small and easy, one step at a time, in order to build up stamina for the more challenging and rewarding trails. Some victories must be earned. There is a price to pay and that price is process.

This year, I’ve taken up hiking. New boots on my feet and walking sticks in hand and I’m off. My first hike only lasted 20 minutes before my legs started to shake. This isn’t surprising. I’m new. I saw a steep trail that led to a mountain top and I started dreaming of the time I will conquer it. I imagined the view from on top. It will be great, one day, when I earn it.

In this blog, I explore what it means to have strength of heart in three areas: change, adversity and reformation. I admire people who are willing to think fresh thoughts and do the hard work in search of truth. No easy answers; no simple pithy sayings or platitudes. As a person of faith, I’m frustrated with easy answers that gloss over pain and refuse to wrestle. I want to go deeper. That explains my tag line:

Explore | Question | Wrestle | Repeat

Platitudes are easy answers. Google defines platitude as “…a remark or statement, especially one with a moral content, that has been used too often to be interesting or thoughtful.” I don’t like platitudes and I don’t use them.

I think about Judi, my friend who was diagnosed with lupus years ago. It threw her into crisis at first, like a huge mountain to conquer. After a time of struggling and facing her fears, she settled in. Someone gave her a plaque that helped her; it read “Life goes on.” It’s a platitude but it wasn’t easy to get there. Platitudes are only useful as a reminder after the struggle. Life goes on now with a new reality.

A platitude given without the wrestling part feels empty, shallow, and clueless in the complexity of the struggle and the mixture of emotions.

When you give platitudes before the wrestling, you’re trying to get the result without the process. It’s the glory without the price. It’s like wanting a mountain top view without paying the price of hiking.

Christianity is both crisis and process.

Crisis is a moment. Some moments are life changing in your relationship with God: when you first decide to follow Jesus, when you feel God’s presence, when you are touched by God’s love, when you get healed, etc. A mountain-top experience is like the crisis — one moment of awe. Life mostly happens in the valley, not on the mountain top.

Process happens day by day: becoming aware of the way we think, the way we talk to people or the little ways we demean ourselves. Process is like training. It’s work and it’s hard. There is a price to pay that may involve pain. In other words, it’s not easy and it doesn’t come to you in a moment.

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I want the view from the top of the mountain, but I don’t mind the struggle in the valley. I work to build up my muscles so that one day I can see the view from the top. I don’t expect to live on the mountain top, that’s not my reality. For now, I just put my boots on and train for a longer trail.

©2017 Belinda McDanel


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