Christian Living


Family Matters 06/01/17

Christian Clichés: Do They Help or Hurt?

Friends talking

You are going through a difficult time. Someone in the church is trying to encourage you and says, "I believe everything happens for a reason!" Or how about, "Don't worry. God's in charge!" Or have you ever said, "I will pray for you," but then you don't?

We all hear and have used clichés when we want to help or comfort someone. Our intentions might be good, but are clichés meaningful or helpful? Does a cliché feel good to the person receiving it? Are there better things to say or do when people are in crises and in need of encouragement?

Often, we use clichés because we don't know what else to say. We want to offer comfort or help, but we aren't certain as to how to do that or we feel awkward about what to say. Our intentions are good. We want to be comforting and helpful. The problem is that a cliché can be a turn off to someone who is hurting, especially if it is based on fiction or poor theology. For example, the cliché, "God helps those who help themselves," is nowhere in the Bible. If God only helps the self-helpers, we are all in trouble! 

When I was going through infertility, people in my church would say things like, "God has a good plan for your life. It may not include children." Honestly, that kind of "help" just upset me more and didn't help with the intense emotions I felt. Yes, I knew God had a plan for my life. But during that season of dealing with the inability to conceive, I didn't want to hear that cliché.

So what can we do and say that is helpful? Here are a few suggestions when someone needs encouragement:

  • Consider scripture encouragements. The Bible is uplifting and there is power in the Word of God. Scripture is comforting and well-received as it is God's truth and promises to us.
  • Listen more. Talk less. Mourn with your friend or loved one. Don't feel you have to provide answers. Just be with them. Grieve with them. Love them and maybe just say, "I am so sorry."
  • Be OK with feeling uncomfortable and not knowing what to say or do. Sometimes the best thing to say is, "I have no words." Or, "I really don't know what to say, but I can pray – then make sure you do." Too often people say they are praying for you and then don't.

Avoid the clichés and offer your presence and actually pray with or for the person. Rarely, do people refuse prayer!

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