January 12, 2017

Lies, Darned Lies, and Platitudes

Do you know what too many people don’t understand?  That not everything is formulaic in this world.

We live in a society that, more and more, is examining the science of things and infusing scientific thought into things we hadn’t before.  The study of sports science, for example, is yielding new equipment, new procedures, and even new measurements of performance.  The beauty of science is that it always yields verifiable, replicable results.  

But, as much as we human beings are bound physically and even mentally to science, there is, despite our increasing efforts to prove to the contrary, ultimately no science to human emotion. 

Emotions stretch beyond the bounds of the physical and mental.  They aren’t predictable or immutable.  They’re fleeting and fluid.  You can never truly pin down emotions into a predictable pattern or subset.  

I think this is a point on which most people would agree, with the potential exception of the hardcore, Temperance Brennan types out there—and, even she started coming around in the later seasons.

So why, then, do so many of us fall into the trap of believing that there are verifiable, replicable, one-size-fits-all means of dealing with human emotion on so many different fronts?

Now, before you shake your head and say, “People don’t do that,” consider the following.  

When someone we know and care about loses a loved one, what often occurs?  We hear (and, at times, even repeat ourselves) the cut-and-dried platitudes and pieces of advice that have become so commonplace.  

Now, I’m not referring to Biblical truths that we share here:  they're a solid foundation.  I’m talking about the other things, and some of them contradict themselves.  
  • You need to let it out.
  • He/She wouldn’t want you to cry.
  • The Lord never gives us more than we can handle (an absolute butcher job of Scripture that we’ve let slip into our Christian vernacular).
  • Everything happens for a reason.
  • Time heals all wounds.
  • You can probably think of others, too.  
We expect grief to be dealt with in a formulaic fashion, but it just doesn’t work that way.

Now, consider the fact that grief isn’t limited to just instances of death (even though we often overlook that fact).  
  • The parent whose child has just left for college sometimes grieves.  
  • The employee who’s lost his/her job sometimes grieves.  
  • The person who’s seen a cherished relationship end grieves, too.
That last one is one that we really treat in a formulaic fashion.  

If there’s anything outside of dealing with death that we desperately want to be cut and dried, simple and easy, and cleanly routine, it’s recovering from a breakup.  

I’m fairly certain that's because we don’t want to see our loved ones hurting; though, I’m not always convinced of whether that’s because we care about said loved one so much, or because their grief makes us uncomfortable, and, that thought could be applied to any instance of grief.

I will say, for the record, that I believe that my own family’s hearts have been in the right place in this regard throughout my lifetime.  (Don’t go writing me any disgruntled e-mails, siblings and parents. 😜)

But still, the platitudes persist as people try to make a science out of recovering from heartbreak.  
  • In the end, this is a good thing.
  • It wasn’t meant to be.
  • Just get over it and move on.
  • Put yourself out there.
Now, these things do work for some people. If you’re a twenty-something, attractive female, you can just move on, put yourself out there, and have another date in the heartbeat.  But, as the Everly Brothers sang, “If you wonder who the loneliest creatures in the world can be, they’re the ugly duckling, the little black sheep, and me.”

It’s just not as simple for some as it is for others.  

Dates aren’t readily available for everyone.  All hearts don’t heal at the same speed.  There’s no science to this, as much as we want there to be.  I know that all of this probably isn’t a popular take on emotion and grief, but it still needs to be recognized and understood.

So, what do we do to help the hurting in our lives?

Let me answer that with an observation.

Do you know what I haven’t gotten enough of since my own recent breakup?  Hugs.  I mean, real hugs.  Not the “thanks for coming, be safe on the road” variety.  Genuine, unsolicited, “I know you’re hurting, I love you, and I’m always going to be here for you” hugs.  

Don't get me wrong; I've gotten a few, and I'm grateful for them, and for the people who gave them.  But, the members of my support system have their own problems and concerns, and all of them are pretty significant right now.  So, I can't fault them in the slightest for concentrating on those things.  Their needs and concerns are important, too--more so than mine, to be honest.  You can’t really ask for those kinds of hugs, though.  They’ve got to be offered freely.

Of course, not everyone appreciates hugs.  But, everyone appreciates something.  

It’s for us, as family and friends, to learn what the hurting in our lives need to sense our care and concern, and then provide those supportive gestures sincerely.  Recognize that the process is different in every case, and commit yourself to be there for the hurting through the process, whatever that may entail, for as long as it takes.  The hurting might be inclined to tell you exactly what they need sometimes, but don’t count on that or wait for it to happen.  Be proactive in finding out and providing those needs.  

I promise you, there’s no better way for us to show a hurting person that you care than to take the initiative in addressing his/her needs in a way that that will benefit them, not in the way that seems right or most convenient to us.  That kind of caring goes further than any well-meaning platitude, and it doesn't even require speech.  Our efforts can always say what our words may fail to express.

1 comment:

  1. Being present is more valued than any words given. {hugs}