Let’s tackle some platitudes shall we?
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, let’s say that this month it seems like the world has brought a giant cornucopia of spiritual and religious platitudes to the door of my life. (Bit of a stretch?? Luckily, around here we get points for trying and trophies for showing up…) And let me tell you, they must be running a sale on “God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle” because that ish is being thrown around like it’s going out of style.
First, if there is such a thing as backhanded spiritual encouragement I think that’s what we’re dealing with here. While it sounds supportive enough, in the same breath as the positive reinforcement it offers, it implies you’re not trying hard enough and that you’re lying about how hard you are trying. So in conclusion, you’re a lazy liar and God’s caught on to your game. Thanks? I feel so much better?
“God doesn’t give you…” also seems to fly in the face of communion. Because if I can handle anything God throws my way, then what need do I have for community? To have potluck luncheons and ham and bean dinners?? “But Katie, maybe God wants you to handle the situation by asking for help from those around you! Did you ever think of that?!?” Then say that instead.
The phrase also casts God in the popular role of Karmic Santa, doling out rewards and punishments, trials and tribulations based on some previous personal assessment of what you can and cannot handle. How about the situations we work ourselves into? The suffering we unknowingly welcome into our own lives? I get it, I know that sometimes our choices come down to bad or worse and I know that I am perfectly capable of making my own very bad choices, completely knowingly and fully aware. (They actually just came in and took away my WWJD bracelet…) And since I don’t want to blame myself maybe I should just stop. Stop the blaming instead of throwing shade on someone else, be it God or my friends or my childhood. We are all cordially invited to be as accountable as we can be right now.
Lastly and most importantly, this phrase is just an awful and enormous spiritual myth, which is my nicer way of saying “tis bullshit!”, because THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS THAT I, YOU, WE CANNOT HANDLE!!!! We should not be able to “handle” the loss of over thousands of lives in a natural disaster or the violent death of children or preventable disease. If you are trying to find meaning in these things, in real time, right now, you’re doing it wrong and by “wrong” I mean you’re doing harm. There’s a quote from Kris Carr who turned her cancer into something meaningful without ever coming to a place where she felt she was “given” the disease as a way of finding meaning. She said, “I don’t call cancer a gift because I would NEVER give this to someone. It has taught me many things, but a gift? No.” Some practices of religion and spirituality provide us a way to create meaning but I think the notion of religion’s sole purpose being to serve this process needs to be challenged, flag pole after-school style.
What else am I forgetting? What am I getting wrong? What other “spiritual myths” do we need to examine a bit more closely?
Be well, be kind, and do good, friends.