Platitudes – Filling the Air But Not the Heart

Blog - Platitudes“Your platitudes are proverbs of ashes, Your defenses are defenses of clay. 13 “Hold your peace with me, and let me speak, Then let come on me what may! 14 Why do I take my flesh in my teeth, And put my life in my hands? 15 Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”  – Job 13:12-15

Platitude – “a flat, dull, or trite remark, especially one uttered as if it were fresh or profound”

We’ve all spoken them – out in the air, toward some stressed individual, with little thought of their effect. Just wanting to help. To pull that person back from the edge. Or to alter the charged atmosphere of the moment. We mean well.

Yesterday we had one of those travel days that leave you exhausted and glad just to be safely home. One of the flight crew of our first flight overslept, and then circumstances tumbled out such that we would miss our connecting flight. It didn’t have to be that way, because the first crew, once we were in the air, did all they could to make up for lost time. Then, it was RUN TO THE GATE. The plane for our connecting flight was still on the ground, and, like in the movies, the door was just then closed. If you travel, you know that mercy stops at the close of that door.

As we stood in line at the airline’s service counter to make other flight arrangements, we fumed. This is the confession. We joined many others who would have to make different plans because this one didn’t work out. All around us people were on their phones with varying levels of disappointment.

A young man in front of us, who had the same situation as ours, decidedly took a high road. Over-hearing us whining (seriously – part of the confession), he cheerily acknowledged his similar dilemma, smiled, shrugged his shoulders, and said, “Well, it’s not the end of the world.” In my flesh (continuing to expose my wretched heart), I wanted to punch him. Of course, I would never…still, it came to mind.

He was trying to be helpful. How many times have I done the same thing? As we got back on our way, and eventually arrived home later in the day, this situation continued to resonate in my heart and mind. We want to help…and have no words… Is there a reason we have no words?

Platitudes sometimes tumble out of our mouths before we even think through how they will sound to the stressed or grieving hearer. They are usually well-intended (except for the times they are meant to shame – that is a whole other thing). As I get older, I am learning to listen longer before speaking. That is not to say that I don’t still trip over myself all the time, trying to be helpful with words that don’t cost me anything.

We live in a day when communication is reduced to text messages, Facebook posts, and 140 character Tweets. Words still matter. Hopefully we will continue to train our hearts and minds to listen more than we speak. Then when we speak, it is truth in love (or at least compassion). Real and genuine word-food that nourishes the heart long after the encounter…those kinds of words can help us.

It wasn’t “the end of the world”, in that long line at the service counter yesterday. Whether he was being kind or shaming me in his higher perspective of the situation, it doesn’t matter.  His words did stay with me, and they did make me wrestle with my attitude. Still…

What are some of the sayings or platitudes that come your way that make you a little crazy or totally missed the mark for you at that time? You share yours, and I’ll then share mine.

A List of Platitudes

Scott Berkun’s Most Annoying Platitudes

YouTube Video – Geico Words Commercial 2014

A Generous List of Proverbs (Not the Same Thing as Platitudes)

Wisdom Proverbs from the Bible

3 thoughts on “Platitudes – Filling the Air But Not the Heart”

    1. So true. One of my least favorites is, “It’s all good.” God’s good, definitely, but “it” (whatever that is) may not be at all good. Also, my husband reminded me of the saying, “The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.” For sure, that’s the best place to be, but safest? Not always on this side of Eternity. Finally, I try never to say, “They grow up so fast.” – It’s true about children, but hearing that multiple times across their childhood doesn’t slow them down or take parenting to a higher place. Glad those children don’t disappear when they’re grown.

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