- 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.