Ever wondered what a platitude is? Probably not but we use them all the time. A platitude is defined by Websters as a “banal, trite or stale remark.” A homily is an “inspirational catchphrase.” Making any sense yet?
Let’s put it into context. I’ve heard plenty on being single, without people necessarily knowing my situation. Here are a few.
- Oh, you’re trying too hard.
- When you stop trying, that’s when it will happen.
- You’re not trying hard enough.
- You need to look in new places.
- You’re too picky.
- The right one will come along.
- Don’t give up hope.
They work for all situations, such as being laid off or being fired.
- A better one will come along.
- Sometimes we just need a change.
- Things are bound to change.
- I’m sure you’ll get another job soon.
- If you don’t succeed, try and try again.
- Don’t give up hope.
How about for health? “It’s God’s will.” Children? “This hurts me more than it hurts you.” People? “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Travel? Sports? Education?
I’m sure there are a million platitudes. The road to hell is, after all, paved with good intentions. And platitudes. Gobs and buckets full of oozing platitudes.
After hearing the numerous and often contradictory homilies from well-meaning friends I just started saying, please, no more platitudes. These phrases seem to be a way for a person to try to ease someone’s pain, fears, worry, sadness or situation that looks lacking to those who have better circumstances. Perhaps it is just a human need to try to offer some form of cheerleading. Perhaps we feel uncomfortable when someone has encountered a setback in their lives. Perhaps, like reading crystal balls and tea leaves, we believe that to offer a homily will be a prediction come true. But the fact is, no one knows what the future holds and there are many people who don’t get what they want or need through their lives. Giving some shallow catchphrase does very little good.
Sad fact, but life isn’t fair and it takes work. Only those privileged few born with gold spoons in their mouths don’t have to try. Maybe they get platitudes too. But I’ve found, after hearing some of these phrases far too many times and catching myself even saying them, that they just sound hollow. I would prefer someone saying, We’re here to support or help you as a friend and I hope things get better soon. That seems far more genuine.
I’ll leave you with Aldous Huxley‘s comment about platitudes: Proverbs are always platitudes until you have personally experienced the truth of them.