Pithy Religious Quotes Need Warning Labels

Due to my issues and damage as a non-religious survivor of child sexual abuse (one of my abusers was a preacher) and as a survivor of rape as an adult, as well as having to deal with all the fallout from those traumas, such as physical, mental, and psychological handicaps, PTSD, phobias, religious triggers, bipolar disorder and occasional fights with suicidal thoughts, I have a big problem with the quote below:

“If you’re thinking about giving up, don’t… because God gave you your life because he knows that you are the only one strong enough to handle it.”

I realize some people think this is “nice comfort”, and they have “good intentions” in sharing it. However, unless you are speaking to peers of your own religion and/or people who also find this sort of thing comforting, I’d like to discourage others from sending this pithy trite quote to strangers who are hurting. Especially if they don’t share your religion, or if religion was part of their abuse or trauma. This should certainly not be said to a person battling thoughts of suicide, more so if you don’t know the person very well.

The quote above reminded me of two topics discussed by the excellent writer Christian Piatt, included with his gracious permission below:

#1 from Ten Cliches Christians Should Never Use here:

Everything happens for a reason.” I’ve heard this said more times than I care to. I’m not sure where it came from either, but it’s definitely not in the Bible. The closest thing I can come up with is “To everything, there is a season,” but that’s not exactly the same. The fact is that faith, by definition, is not reasonable. If it could be empirically verified with facts or by using the scientific method, it wouldn’t be faith. It would be a theory. Also, consider how such a pithy phrase sounds to someone who was raped. Do you really mean to tell them there’s a reason that happened? Better to be quiet, listen and if appropriate, mourn alongside them. But don’t dismiss grief or tragedy with such a meaningless phrase.

#5 from Ten More Cliches Christians Should Avoid here:

The Lord never gives someone more than they can handle. What about people with mental illness? What about people in war-torn countries who are tortured to death? What about the millions of Jews murdered in the Holocaust? And this also implies that, if really horrible things are happening to you, God “gave” it to you. Is this a test? Am I being punished? Is God just arbitrarily cruel? Just don’t say it.”

~ ~ ~

“Happens for a reason” and “God never gives more than you can handle” seem to have been combined and morphed into the first quote at the top.

Stuff like this can push a survivor of abuse or rape, or a suicidal person, right over the edge. As “you were meant to have this suffering” rattles around in a person’s head, ricocheting off of their pain and horror, their abyss of multiple losses, and the hopelessness that trauma and/or mental illness has brought into their lives. Also, like it or not, not all people share your religious views, nor do they have to.

Here is one of the reasons why the quote at the top personally disturbs me:

Now I Lay Me Down

After years of being raped by that preacher (starting when I was five) on most Saturdays, I wince at quite an array of religious-based “comfort quotes”. Considering my father initially raised me from birth to believe that he was my “god”, religious “comforts” can get confusing and upsetting fast.

Here is the key: try to seek to know a little about the person you want to reach out to and hopefully help. Ask them if they are religious, if that is important to you in your life. Then be prepared to respect it if their answer is “No.” Remember that the goal (hopefully) is to help the person. You won’t be able to help them if you disrespect their views and their need for self care. My self care requires an absence of religious jargon. If that is not respected, I am placed in an untenable spot and subjected to unnecessary upset and distress. Also, it often makes me angry. Making others feel pain, distress and anger is generally not the way to “help” them.

So try to get to know them first, respecting their wishes to not let you, if that is the case. Here’s a great quote: “You have to be a friend to make a friend.” Also, the Golden Rule of “Treat others as you want to be treated” applies; so please slap a warning label on your religious quotes collection and ask first if they might be welcome… or not. I know I would thank others for this gift of respect, as that does make me feel that I am being helped.

~ ~ ~

© W.R.R. 8/19/2013
For all survivors of any form of rape or abuse; you are not alone. Seek help. Speak out. Find your path to healing.


About W.R.R.

Bipolar & survivor of incest/child sex abuse and adult male rape; bisexual, polyamorist, poet/writer/advocate & married father of four. View all posts by W.R.R.

You must be logged in to post a comment.