5 October 2019

Lamentations 3:16–33, Job 2:11–13 James 1:9–18

Wikipedia summarizes Nathan Robinson’s take on platitudes as:
“A platitude is even worse than a cliché. It’s a sanctimonious cliché, a statement that is not only old and overused but often moralistic and imperious. … [they] have an aphoristic quality, they seem like timeless moral lessons. They therefore our view of the world, and can lull us into accepting things that are actually false and foolish.”

By definition, a platitude is a “flat” saying that sounds significant but isn’t. However, Robinson’s take on the actual use of platitude is significant, especially as we look at Lamentations, or the mourning, grief, and of others.

There is also another piece that Robinson may be unconsciously reacting to is that often platitudes hurt. The receiver of the platitude will often perceive the speaker as unsympathetic or unempathetic, at best, and dismissive or belittling at worst.

The flip-side of a platitude is actually the t of the speaker. Sometimes the platitude is to anesthetize the speaker! When they speak a platitude they don’t have to acknowledge the of the other or their own . Platitudes are often used because people just don’t know what to say, so it’s easier to say something seems helpful or profound (Especially if it sounds like it came from the !) and just move on.

The writer of Lamentations is miserable! Everything has fallen apart. However, in the midst of their woes, they hold on to ! The really important part to comprehend is not that the lamenter knows why, but that s them! The lamenter knows that is present in the midst of it all.

Job was in much the same state. What he needed was people to be present. These few verses of Job are the perfect symbol of what it means to be friends when one of the circle is grieving. Then these “friends” show why being present is the key…they open their mouths. While much of their would not seem to be platitudes, they actually were! Pointless, useless that was delivered as if it was profound, but it was tfully and hurtfully false.

James presents a more mature understanding of trials and grieving (don’t say it’s ’s fault), but he doesn’t diminish feelings. James, too, is fighting platitudes (people placing the blame on , not themselves, for their failures). You can be mad at . You can be sad. You can be upset. You can be confused (in our day and age, this one might be the most freeing). Perhaps in the midst of our our greatest temptation is to try to understand because when we seek to understand (and often feel that we do), we bury or hide the we feel. Burying and hiding might allow us to survive our , but it usually doesn’t allow us to thrive beyond it.

1) Listening is often the alternative to platitudes. When has someone listened to your rather than you platitudes? What about giving platitudes rather than listening? Which helped you more?

2) An inteing struggle in our society is that those in look for prior to and often instead of grieving. Have you found yourself or others doing that? How can we help each ore a real and healing grieving process?

3) Why is it so hard for us to merely sit with those who are in ?

Pastor Ian

By Pastor Ian

Ian is an ordained Elder in The Church of the Nazarene, and is currently serving as the Online Campus Pastor at Generations Community Church in Marysville, WA, USA.