By definition, a platitude is a remark or statement that has been overused, trite or without thought, and usually involves some moral content. It lacks originality, importance, and is stale. Unfortunately, platitudes are often used in circumstances where they are least needed, let alone, wanted. By and large, they are the result of the well-intentioned desire to say something that may help or comfort another who is facing difficult times. All of us have probably been guilty at one time or another of using them when we did not know what to say to someone who was hurting. Of course, some have used platitudes to feel morally or spiritually superior to others, which leads to another definition: a self-righteous remark. The question is: how can we be there for those who need comfort without using those insipid comments?
James 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him (KJV). This first principle applies to every situation we face: ask God for the wisdom needed. When we invite the Lord into a situation, we come into a place where He can establish our thoughts, and give us what we need at the right time. 1Peter 4:11 tells us, “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (KJV). The best words anyone can hear come from God. His words are spirit and life. Jesus told His disciples not to give any thought to what they would say when they were brought before those in authority, because they would be given what to say that very hour (see Matthew 10:19; Luke 21:12-15). Similarly, instead of trying to find words of comfort or things to say in response to what someone says, let the Comforter give you what they need to hear.
This leads to another principle also found in James 1:19, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak . . .” (KJV). First, in order to speak the words that come from God, we have to hear from Him. That means we have to be in listening mode. Secondly, usually what people need more than a bunch of words is a listening-ear. As counterintuitive as this may sound, they may need our ear before they need our prayers. Simply put, they need someone to listen. Silence is not necessarily a bad thing on our part. Being there will mean more to them than anything we can say. Remember, the Lord knows what they need more than we do, which means we should let Him be the Comforter. As we wait on Him to speak to our heart, we will know when to speak, when to be silent, when to pray, and when to leave. Our friends and loved-ones do not need Job’s friends to comfort them; they need the Spirit (read Job to see how his friends “were there for him” –talk about platitudes). For those who are mourning, tears are a good thing. We do not need to try to stop their crying; especially, by using empty words. Perhaps that would be a moment to offer our shoulder instead.
For those who are tempted to use platitudes in a self-righteous manner, suffice to say that God is not fond of hypocrisy. Those very words that you may use may come back to test you. In fact, you can count on it. Those who use lofty words usually have not been through the fire of God. Those words tend to burn away when someone endures trials of many kinds. Jesus said, “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36, KJV). One of the best times to be slow to speak is when we start to feel self-righteous. Just saying!