Monday, October 19, 2009

It Seemed Like the Right Thing to Say at the Time

There are all these things people say, the kind that of things that are meant to make you feel better when things go drastically wrong. We've all said them. Problem is, they don't always help you feel much better at all.

"If you love someone, set him free..." etc, etc. If I love someone, I have no intention of just setting him free. Rather, I would hold on tight and surround him with my love, never allowing anyone to question my devotion. If something tried to come between us, I would stand and fight for love. I'm not talking about locking someone in a closet. It's just that to me anything else suggests that he wasn't worth my effort.

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." Maybe. Or maybe little pieces of a person are chipped away until what's left is barely recognizable. This probably depends on the person and the circumstances. I've known people that have been through so much that they can hardly hold themselves together. Do I think they are weak? No, I do not. Vulnerable, yes... damaged, probably... weak, no.

"Children are resilient." Somewhat, I suppose. But if children were truly resilient and able to bounce back from anything, then parents could make all kinds of selfish choices and not worry about the consequences. Divorce, neglect, even abuse would be no big deal, because the kids would emerge from the rubble unscathed.

"The only person you should worry about pleasing is yourself." I like the sound of this one. I WANT to buy into this one. But it sounds self-centered to me. It pleased my brother immensely when he broke my arm. It didn't please me one little bit.

"Happiness comes from within." Oh, yeah, the old no-one-can-make-you-angry-you-allow-yourself-to-get-angry theory. Try telling that to the little kid that spends an hour picking flowers for his mother, handing them over with a huge grin on his face, just to hear his mother point out that they are actually weeds as she drops them into the trash can. That child was filled with joy in anticipation of thrilling his mother, right up the point of her rejection.

"We can still be friends." How do you go from being lovers to being friends? How do you put boundaries on a relationship that was previously open and intimate? How do you stand by and watch the one you love fall in love with someone new? If you can do it, you are a better person than I.

"It just wasn't meant to be." This one is a no-brainer, and it's actually true. But it isn't helpful. The expecting mother who took perfect care of herself from the moment she learned of the new life beginning inside of her will take no solace in this when the doctor informs her that she won't be having that baby after all.

These phrases seem so harmless. There is some truth to them if you are able to view them through a philosophical lens. We resort to them when someone we care about is going through tough times because we want so badly to find the right thing to say. And sometimes the right thing to say is nothing at all.

No comments: