Can I call you stupid? Please?

Romans 12:15, Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
Momma says, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

In the immediate aftermath of our family tragedy, people most likely thought I was zoned out. I was to some degree. Certainly I was in shock. But part of the time I was simply dumbfounded at the things people would say.

Some of it was crazy. (No, I am sorry your dog died, but I promise… it is not the same as losing a child and you have no idea how I feel.)

Some of it was dumb. (Really? You expect me to be strong at a time like this because the church is depending on me? Are you an idiot?)

And some of it was just ignorantly insulting. (Are you serious? Do you hear what you are saying? How in the world could you ever twist a double murder and the loss of a wife, mother, son, and brother into something good? How do you look at a five year old and say “your mother’s gone but something good is going to come of it.”?)

Religious platitudes and empty words of comfort are everywhere. I bet you have said some of them. I know I have. And I’ll even grant in saying them, we probably meant well. But well intentioned or not, sometimes the things we say to be comforting, compassionate, or caring are just plain stupid.

Or worse, but I am trying to be nicer than I feel about it.

In the end, death, tragedy, pain, and loss rarely feel like the blessing of God.

So when words fail (and they will because nothing you say can fix it), mourning with those who mourn is the only valid option.

36 thoughts on “Can I call you stupid? Please?

  1. People can be so insultingly stupid. When my daughter shared with the youth group at church how she was struggling with chronic illness she was told that “God has a plan for your life” and the group moved on to discussing how awful it was that the other kids had a big assignment load at school!!! It’s easier to offer platitudes than to listen and mourn with those who mourn.
    She has lost her faith.
    Thank you so much for sharing your journey.

  2. That is a good word. No one can ever understand exactly what you are going through… because each situation has its own fingerprint. C.S. Lewis shared similar sentiments in his book “A Grief Observed,” which chronicles his thoughts about his wife’s death. Speaking from an outsider’s perspective, I suppose it is much easier to respond to a situation with words than to dig deep into our hearts to find those gritty emotions to share, and actually mourn with someone. But that is no excuse. Even though it is bitter to mourn with those who mourn, it is love. I hope I can learn that kind of love. Thank you for posting this.

  3. I’m sure I’ve been one of the ones who’s said stupid things to people in such circumstances. I’ve also been on the receiving end of stupid comments (and believe me, the circumstances *I* have dealt with are nothing like what has happened to you.)

    My son received the diagnosis of autism at age three. I was told by a good friend that, “He can be a blessing.” Ten years down the road, I agree. I’m finally starting to get that maybe, just maybe, God knew what He was doing when he put my son in our family. But hearing that remark immediately upon my son’s diagnosis made me want to scream. You can’t immediately see a blessing in a bad circumstance (and in some cases, I don’t know where the blessings are in bad circumstances.)

    When I was struggling with infertility, someone told me, “God has a plan.” That didn’t help.

    The top two remarks that get under my skin are: “God is in control” (which, too often, is used as a spiritual brush-off) and “God won’t let you suffer more than you are able to bear” or “won’t let anything more happen to you than you are able to bear”, and I Corinthians 10:13 is used as the “proof” of this “fact”–“God is faithful, he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” But if you look carefully at the context, Paul is talking about temptation to sin, not circumstances of life.

    These days, one of the things I say to people is, “I’m so sorry. There are no words.” And really, there aren’t.

  4. Les, I came across your blog a few days ago through Al Maxey. All I can say is “Oh my goodness!” Al describes your blog as raw and not for the faint-hearted. To me, it is a relief. My husband certainly did not experience the tragedy you have but my husband lost his job last May and cannot find work anywhere. I am legally blind and profoundly hearing impaired and cannot help and can’t do anything except watch all this unfold. Stupid comments? Yeah we have certainly gotten our share. “God is in control”, and I think, Okay then where’s the job? Someone says, “We’re praying for you”, so many time it sounds more like an excuse than something that is actually done. Stupid comments? Yes. I have heard a bunch. Thanks for posting this because it is helping more than you realize. It is a relief to know that being a Christian doesn’t always mean we are “tip toeing through the tulips.”

    • That’s the way it sometimes goes, Doug. If I can save another person from added pain, mores the better!Hope your world is good!

  5. 100% agree. I’m so sorry for the pain you have been and are going through. I’ve been on the receiving end of some of those comments myself and I will admit that there is almost nothing more faith-challenging. Hang in there!

  6. Am thankful Brad let me know you were writing. LOVED what you have said. One of the first things I tell a new widow/widower is “People will say the stupidest things to you but you’ll learn they mean well.” Doesn’t it make you really love them all the more when they stumble and mumble with wanting to comfort and not knowing how? My favorite (NOT!) is people who have to relate their own life story as qualification for validating that you are right to suffer TOO and that you also will survive because THEY did. Your writing brings comfort to me because you are willing to show the raw nerve of loss and trying to rebuild.

  7. Since my beloved husband Jim’s instant death in a senseless car accident in October–a 17 year old boy texted & drove thru a red light into us–I have received many stupid comments similar to the ones you describe, Les. I’ve lost ‘friends’ over them. Mourning with someone is truly Love. It’s hard, but Love is inconvenient after all; that’s its nature. Thank you for your courage in articulating what I personally feel at such remarks. Your writings are helping me so very much.

  8. Les,
    Sometimes anger, grief and frustration are more than we fragile human being can bare. Yet, if I had not had God to rail at, and scream at, and even plead to take me home I don’t know where I would have gone when tragedy hit me and my family. Life can be and is conflicting and seems so unfair, and I don’t think we will ever truly understand it all until we reach the land of promise. I appreciate your honest words and sincere feelings and I know God appreciates honesty , and i can say your response certainly validates my own feelings when times seemed cruel and unrelenting. I truly believe that Satan attacks us much like he attacked Job. With one goal in mind. To take our faith and in your case stop a great servant of God. i hope I don’t sound stupid, but if I do please forgive my stupidity. We have never met but thank you for your honesty and may God bless you my brother. My prayers are with you.

  9. What you did with this post, in my opinion, is what great writers do. Bold, articulate, educational stuff.

    I’m also lacking in humility and thick in the cranium so some/much of it might’ve flown right past me.

  10. Our son lost his best friend to cancer@8yrs old. He&I sat on the front step crying one sunny June afternoon. He gritted his teeth& said “what kind of God would let a little kid die of cancer”! I replied…”I dont know honey,I dont know! I understood that God was God,yet I thought it wise to allow him to express what he was feeling. I had faith that God understood his anger. Im happy to say he is a faithful child of God today. 🙂 In “His”love&many prayers! Vicki

  11. After 13 years of one personal disaster after another, I have left the church and so-called Christians behind. The church, the bible and Christians are useless. I was – or at least I thought I was – a strong Christian, worshiping and rejoicing in God. But now? No how, no way. Diagnosed with a degenerative brain condition that will eventually leave me unable to walk or talk and then kill me, my fellow Christians ignore me and my family’s needs. Good riddance to all of them.

    • Janet, I am so sorry for your experience and prognosis. I too have been very angry at God and even some of his people. But giving up leads to a place I don’t want to be either. So the struggle continues. I hope I can find a way to help you get to a better place.

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