Those SENTENCES!

  1. I am sure there was a lesson in it you were supposed to learn.

 

2. God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.

 

I was on a walk yesterday. It was one of the few walks I have ever been on without my dog. He passed away a little over a month ago of cancer. I was going around the block in my scooter. I felt very alone and bare without my dog next to me. I use that time to talk to God. I always have. Anyone watching me could have thought I was talking to my dog but now may assume I am talking to myself. Someone walked by and as she noticed my dog was not with me just tossed out,  “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” It reminded me of the ever so equally misused sentences, “I am sure there was a lesson in it you were supposed to learn.”

Of the thousands of compassionate and comforting things that a person can say to another, these two sentences I find no solace in. For me, it doesn’t have to do with my religious beliefs. These sentences are handed out as catch phrases. They are handed out as a way to put everything back onto the person that is suffering. There is no lifting up in those words. There is no empathy or understanding. I believe it was meant well when it was conceived. It was meant to be part of a bigger conversation that involved speaking about spirituality and growing and evolving as a person. But tossed out as a passerby is merely flippant and insensitive. If I were sitting at a table and someone wanted to discuss God’s role in my life, it would be appropriate. If we were talking about how I have grown since abuse and how I have overcome abuse then it would be appropriate.

I felt angry immediately. I wanted to say… If God didn’t give me more than I could handle then why did I attempt suicide? If God didn’t give me more than I could handle why did I attempt suicide again? She was basically saying, “Sorry everything sucks but…You’ll be ok. You are ok.” People who say this are soothing themselves. They are telling themselves that the God they know and love could not possibly put so much on my plate that I could not handle it. It is not comforting to me to be told this. It does not make me feel any stronger. I GOT more than I could handle. It is a phrase that was picked up along the way and used very inappropriately and rarely does it give peace. It is infact minimizing of what that person is going through. Maybe I don’t want to think about what God does and does not give. Maybe even the thought of thinking was too much for me at that moment. It was.

I’m not saying she is a bad person or that this is the worst thing in the world you can say to someone. I am simply saying there are far better, more thoughtful things that could have been said. “It must be so hard to be walking alone,” or,  ” I’m glad to see you are out,” or,  ” Isn’t it a lovely day.” and if one must put God into the sentence then, “I hope God comforts you.” Let me tell you,  HEARING that God is comforting feels better than some random stranger’s assurances that God won’t give me more than I can handle.

In speaking of abuse one day, a friend told me, that she was sure there was a lesson I learned. She was sure that everything was meant to be and that even in the bad things we experience, they are all there for us to learn. Everything happens with a lesson. What did I learn from being abused. I wanted to say…That is certainly a positive way to look at childhood abuse. If something bad happens then something good must come from it. If something good comes from it then that somehow makes that bad worth it. Right? If I learned a lesson from being abused then it was worth it! NO! There was no lesson! A bad man chose to abuse me. Period. No lesson. Nothing good came from being abused. I did not “learn” anything. I suffered. But I understand the sentiment. It is one of those sentences that is used to try and put a positive spin on something negative. It is something people say to make all the bad seem worth it. But it is simply inappropriate to talk about childhood sexual abuse and learning a lesson in the same sentence. Really! It is minimizing of the suffering. There is no positive spin on childhood abuse.

Both of these sentences, when said to me, tell me that the person I am speaking to does not care how I feel at that moment. They are not seeking to understand how I am feeling. Those are shut down sentences. They are sentences that make me actually feel bad.

I finished my walk without my dog, alone. I finished my conversation with God. Had that woman come over to me, put her hand on me, looked me in the eye, and told me that SHE believed God didn’t give me more than I could handle, I would have felt differently. She could have said I had a frog on my leg. It is not necessarily in what you say to someone that you can see is hurting, grieving, suffering. It is what you don’t say. In that moment, a kind gesture, or an engaging smile, or an understanding word, would have made me believe at that moment that God did in fact not give more than I could handle. She had that opportunity to renew my faith by showing it. Instead she put her faith based sentence on me and walked away and I felt more alone than I had when I left the house to begin with.

Those two sentences would be used well if turned into a question. Do  you think God has given you more than you can handle? Do you think a lesson can be learned from everything bad?  Hearing another person’s belief in my personal time of crisis does not help me though. I was out on a walk with a thousand things on my mind. A simple smile would have been just fine.

 

 

28 thoughts on “Those SENTENCES!

  1. Oh, I agree. “I am sure there’s a lesson you can learn from it,” is easy enough to say when it’s not you that spends more than 10 years and thousands of dollars in therapy, who burns or cuts herself, who doesn’t know how to stop the negative voices in her head.

    Or maybe she’s right. Maybe we have learned lessons, such as
    1) The bad guy doesn’t necessarily get punished.
    2) Huge injustices are enacted upon small children’s bodies.
    3) It is really hard to get over physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

    I have been thinking about something similar lately. I have been meditating regularly, and I think it helps me a lot. But some of the guided meditations promote thoughts such as, “everything is exactly as it was meant to be.” And quite apart from my own mental health challenges, I wonder how I should understand this in a world where there is hunger, or where over 3000 desperate Middle Eastern refugees have drowned already this summer trying to find a safer place to live? Is that as it was meant to be? Or is that something people can say when their own problems aren’t life threatening. Is it compassionate to say “it’s meant to be”? I know the Buddhist perspective is about acceptance, even of things we do not like. But I struggle with accepting hunger, war, abuse. Those things are more than anyone should have to handle.

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    • Thank you so much for this. For getting what i was trying to convey. For relating. I really needed this understanding tonight. I have thought about acceptance too. I struggle with it too. Acceptance seems easier than blame though. To say that it just is and no one made it that way. Im having trouble explaining myself but i hear what youre saying. I also think meditating on a thought or concept is different than someone telling you it is so. Thank you for your comment.

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  2. I totally agree with you. Phrases like that being tossed out does amount to having conversational cotton wool shoved into your mouth. It is like giving a baby a dummy to keep them quiet. I don’t know if that person knew you personally or not, whether she actually knew of your abuse history-but it is a very provocative phrase all the same, invalidating and patronising and insensitive. I’m sorry she created frustrated feelings in you, though I understand as I would have felt provoked myself. There is no need whatsoever for silly throwaway comments. It is comments like that which unfortunately give religion a bad name, among non-God believing people such as myself. There are no lessons at all to be learned from childhood abuse, except to learn some people are evil. And I think things do happen that are very much more than we can handle. Trauma should not be a life lesson. Safety and life full of abuse should be a basic human right. What she said was basically a load of bollocks and I am juat so sorry you had that experience. I have been told silly phrases like this before and I feel like I wanna punch people when they say it! I am going to reblog as this is a great post 😊💪

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      • Good. 😊👍 I have reblogged but I hope my comments don’t offend you or the religious beliefs you hold. I just got on my soap box and had a rant, as I was abused in a religious setting and I have a lot of anger about that, which makes me bitter about religion. I hope I don’t offend as it isn’t aimed at you, it is aimed at people like the lady you describe. Your post was very well written, and probably a lot more balanced than my own views 😂 I have strong opinions on this topic. I’m glad you feel understood. PTSD survivors are in the best place to understand other PTSD survivors. Our experiences and reactions are more common than we realise. 💝

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      • Hell no im not offended! I feel understood! It’s a blessing your words. Im offended by rapists and child molesters! Im not offended by someone who voices their truth and pain. I completely support you. I hate that you experienced abuse. No child ever ever should endure that.

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      • Thank you hun! That is so kind. I have been meaning to write something raw, of that description, and your blog post gave me the necessary impetus and inspiration 😁👍 😇

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  3. Reblogged this on 21gram.soul.blog and commented:
    I read this post from a survivor friend of mine and I was incensed on her behalf. I wanted to reblog for the purpose of hopefully it being read by the kinds of people who might be inclined to use these shitty phrases. Please religious people, think before you toss out these kinds of ridiculous phrases. You might think you are being “Christian” and self-congratulate yourself for spouting the word of the Lord, thinking you are helping that person, but you are not! You are actually being insensitive, invalidating, patronising and provocative. Sentences like these (which people have used on me when I have discussed my child abuse history,) amount to nothing more than conversational cotton wool being stuffed in our mouths, only to make you feel better, not us. What not to say to an abused trauma victim-“God never gives us more than we can handle.” That is BOLLOCKS of award winning standards. We can try our fucking best to stay alive. We can try to deal with our flashbacks in the day and our nightmares at night. We can try to manage our anxiety and depression and poor body image and low self esteem and fear of leaving the house and difficulty trusting people and eating disorders and deep rooted shame and self disgust and guilt about upsetting people if we speak out and stress of dealing with the police and maybe the continued stress of maintaining relationships with our abusers through fear because we have been threatened by them, (sometimes on our fucking lives!) We can give all that a fucking good try. We can try to fucking survive. But there is no silver lining to child abuse. Child abuse is a violation of our most basic human right, to have control over our fucking bodies! There are no great lessons to be learned. It is not ‘all part of the plan.’ Child abuse should not figure in God’s plan or any fucking plan, whether you hold religious beliefs, spiritual beliefs or no fucking beliefs. So please guys, do me a favour, if you are religious, don’t spout this kind of shit at me or any of my PTSD survivor friends. Did God think it’d be a good lesson for me and the other kids I knew to be ritually abused? Satanic style? In a fucking church? With members of the clergy? Please illuminate me on how the fuck that was ever justifiable?? On any level!!! I certainly don’t thank God for my wonderful life lessons. Those life lessons nearly fucking killed me! Funny how abuse is often perpetrated in religious settings by religious people who then use religious waffle to placate us, saying “God never gives us anything you can’t handle”. Fuck you! It’s the biggest load of provocative crap I’ve ever heard. If I lose followers by expressing myself like this, so be it. It’s what I believe, it’s what I think, and it’s my blog so I’m fucking going to get this off my chest and say it once and for all! *Stepping off soap box now and going to make myself a calming camomile tea!*

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  4. As someone who suffered a depression related breakdown and have family members suffering depression and PTSD the idea of a god not giving more than we can handle is an OFFENSIVE level of bulls**t. It minimizes the pain and suffering than can happen in a person’s life as well as trivialises the s**t they have gone through. The lessons learned thing is almost as bad, because it reinforces the idea that you somehow had to have this happen to you. I can respect anyone’s personal faith, their belief in a god and the comfort and balance that affords them, but religion often puts that arbitrary order to things, that the world is just. It isn’t bad happens to good people all the time and no good comes of it.

    I was raised in a house of platitudes, words that comfort no one, but the person speaking it, Sometimes it isn’t ok, sometimes we do get more than we can handle, but we keep going, because whether we can handle it or not, we are stronger than we know, stronger than the things that harm us. Maybe people have faith in a god for a reason, maybe if he is out there, he has faith in us, faith that we will look after each other, understand one another and care for one another.

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    • Right. I dont like words that minimiaze or that close the conversation to where that person is! The speaker is thinking about them self. Noone is listening or caring what the person hurting is feeling. But i have found often that when someone talks they are only talking for themself. Not for me.

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  5. I’m so sorry you felt alone. You’ve reached the heart of our existenial crisis I think! I agree that the sentence “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” could minimise our pain. Then again maybe it can also give us pause for thought: I think of friends who had similar trauma to mine and who couldn’t handle it. They killed themselves. So sometimes I like to think that the mere fact of being alive (albeit suffering and in pain at times) means that I can still handle life or living. I guess I’m a glass half full person and I say I have no regrets and wouldn’t have had my life any other way–so yes, I believe there are lessons to learn and personal growth to be had, even from childhood abuse. Take care now

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    • In life we do learn. In life we grow and heal in different ways. There is a time and a place for those sentences when you want them to mean something but i believe can do more harm than good tossing them out to a person who is hurting. Thats just my opinion. I hear what you said.

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  6. For sure! Saying trite over used expressions like that is like rubbing salt in the wound of someone who is hurting. Very insensitive! Sometimes I think people feel that they need to say something, anything, so they blurt out the first thing that comes to them. If they took a moment to feel into how they would receive the same comment, they might become more compassionate instead of throwing their judgment out there. Ignorance!

    My own path of healing has involved a lot of shifts in perspective and working on myself at my subconscious level. These are not easy things to do, and I could never have done it without some extraordinary help. My biggest impetus was not wanting to be so filled with anger, so many years after the abuse was over. It wasn’t ok with me that even though I hadn’t been molested in decades, I was still effing myself up over it.

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  7. Statements like this usually only serve to further hurt and silence those who are hurting. There is nothing compassionate about these phrases. People who really care and are compassionate will either ask questions or demonstrate some physical comfort like a hug, or better yet, state that they don’t know what to say and weep with you. Your feelings to this comment are so understandable! It would have been better if they had said nothing at all!

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  8. All I can say is that your abuse as a child and the loss of your beloved dog make me deeply sad. I have survived both, and although I have no way to know the depth of your pain, I emphasize and send healing thoughts and hugs to you.

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