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Watch Your Mouth!: Stopping Serious Topic Cliches

cli·ché /klēˈSHā/


1. a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.


We all use them and they seem like no big deal. Don’t know what to say?! Throw a cliche in there and you’re good! They‘re sometimes goofy, cheesy, and even funny when used at the right moment. Flip on a TV show and you’ll hear a few cliches right away I’m sure.

As a society, we’ve come to make this our knee-jerk reaction to things that make us uncomfortable or when we can’t seem to find the right words to say. We say them to seem like we have a grasp on what’s going on or to be less awkward. Looking back, I saw myself saying them more than I would’ve liked. It seemed to work just fine, from my perspective.

After finding out I was a parent to two medically-fragile children, I started to see some of those same cliches quite differently. It went from being something I felt kept the conversation going to being a complete conversation stopper. Seems like an extreme shift, but let me explain.

When I myself was telling someone the news about my boys, the phrase that came up the most was “God‘s got it in His hands”. To them, I’m sure it was meant to be inspiring and kind. To me, it sent the vibe of “This is making me uncomfortable, please stop talking about it”.

Same saying, different interpretation.

The uncomfortable topics of the world are in our face now more than they ever have been in history. We need to stop thinking avoidance and cliches are going to keep us from looking them in the face. Instead of hiding behind our words, we need to learn how to respond to the unknown and conflicting emotions we have regarding that situation. For this to happen, it’s going to take some serious rewiring on our part. It takes intentional thought and action to change our default from reacting to responding to difficult situations.

Here are a few cliches I’ve run across and some from others I’ve talked to, plus what it implies to the individual you’re saying them to.

  1. ”Things could always be worse.”

This is a pretty common cliche. The person saying it may be trying to get the individual to look at the brighter side of things. To the individual, it is saying that they should be grateful for where they’re at and need to stop complaining, down playing their thoughts and feelings.

2. “God gives His toughest battles to His strongest warriors.”

This particular cliche is used quite a bit within the church community. It seems like the spiritual and inspiring thing to say to someone going through a tough situation. The receiver of this cliche may feel as though you’re implying that because they are a good person, God is just piling things on top of them or even that it is some sort of punishment from Him for trying to be a good person.

3. “My situation pales in comparison to yours.”

I get this one a lot. It’s often said to avoid talking about the speakers situation, emotions, and to appease any guilt the speaker feels toward that individual for bothering them. I can’t speak for everyone, but for myself, it was nice to help someone else because I always felt like I was the one asking for a hand to hold constantly. It’s hard to hear this one because it makes me feel unrelate-able to those closest to me. If someone is offering a listening ear, don’t shut them out. Often, helping others takes our minds off of our own struggles.

4. “It’s all about how you look at it.”

First off, even though this can be true, this is usually said during a vent session. When said, this downplays the hurt and pain the individual is experiencing at the time. This in turn, makes that person feel shameful for saying anything at all. There’s nothing wrong with having emotions about a situation before calming down to think it all over.

These are just a few of the many cliches said. I’m sure you‘ve thought of a bunch while reading through the ones listed.

So, what should you do instead?!

Just be honest.

One of my closest friends said it the best way:

”I can’t say that I understand what you’re going through, but I love you and I’m here for you however you need me.”

The majority of the time, people just want to be heard, their feelings and hardships accepted. If you don’t know what to say, just say that. Being present and letting the individual know you are there for them, even if you don’t understand or it makes you uncomfortable is a powerful statement of love and friendship. It takes effort to destroy the old way of thinking and say what we mean, but it’s worth it to be real and authentic in our relationships.

That‘s all from me this week! I pray you have a wonderful rest of your week and that’s not a cliche!

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