There are a lot of different people out there, religious and not. There are those who believe in prayer but many who don’t. Sometimes, the “I’m praying for you” is meant as a kind gesture but I’ve found that it’s a religious write-off. It’s the “I’m helping you without helping you” approach.
But it’s not just “I’m praying for you” that irks me. It’s the suggestions that follow it.
God will provide.
First of all, if I don’t believe in God I won’t believe that he’s going to give me what I need. Especially since I think if there is a God, I’m not big enough for him to plan out my career path. Second of all, I believe that we get what we work for and sometimes have a nice stroke of luck. I’ve seen way too many people sit back in the hope that God will fix a problem. What happens? The problem gets worse.
A better phrase: It will get better.
A question: What can I do to help you out of this?
Like I said, I personally don’t want you to tell me that a God I don’t believe in will provide some answer for me. I need help solving the problem. I need help achieving a goal. I need support, not advice. I need to hear that it won’t always be dark, that my situation does suck, but that the tables will turn if I keep working.
Just be patient like insert saint/biblical figure.
I hate this so much. Talking about biblical figures to me is like talking about celebrities. It tags along the “God will provide” one because it’s used as empirical evidence, which it isn’t. All it does is make the old Catholic in me feel guilty because I’m not doing my godly part. But I don’t even believe in religions and I shouldn’t have to feel bad when I already feel bad. Yes, being patient and working through things is very hard. Telling me to do it like a religious figure I don’t believe existed doesn’t help.
A better phrase: Being patient is hard, but you’re strong enough. I know it.
A question: Can I do anything to take your mind off it? A coffee? A movie?
You aren’t alone (God is with you).
It’s creepy. I’m kind of kidding, but the thought that there is an omniscient being constantly in my brain, heart, and soul…mmm creeps me out a little bit. And it doesn’t jive with my beliefs. But because I don’t believe in God, there’s something about this statement that always makes me mad. I want to shake the person, tell them I am alone. And their ignorance of my loneliness, my pain makes me feel even more isolated.
A better phrase: You aren’t alone, I’m here for you. (And actually be there).
A question: Do you want to tell me about what’s going on?
Read insert bible verse.
I don’t want to. Sometimes, bible verses can be very helpful. But when you’ve pulled away from religion, it feels tainted. Kinda dirty. But this thought is one of the best ones. Offering some sort of movie or literature to help inspire people to keep going is a great solution. The problem with suggesting any literature especially the bible is that there’s too much room for interpretation and it can worsen the situation.
A better phrase: I read somewhere that *insert advice*.
A question: Is there any book you’re interested in right now?
If you follow God, you’ll be happy.
I was at my most miserable when I believed in the Catholic God. I couldn’t measure up. My life was worthless. I’d already done so much that was deemed bad. Hell, I had more than a few people tell me I was actually evil for just being myself. That’s terrible. Coming from that position, hearing that if I follow God I’ll be happy is a joke to me. No, I won’t be happy. Finding a religion will not make me happy. I don’t need half-assed advice, I need solutions, support, and love.
A better phrase: You should try *insert hobby*. (Give someone something concrete to try for happiness).
A question: Have you been exercising? (A huge help to mental health, no matter how much).
Look to God for your strength.
This is the one. This is the one I hate and that will always fire me up.
There’s a reason, that I’ll talk more about someday, but when I managed to pull myself out of my major depression by exercising, eating right, meditating, and working every minute of every day to not die I got told, “It’s so good God got you through this”. So the whole “Look to God for your strength” doesn’t jive with me.
We are the drivers of our fate. We are the ones who are strong, who have control. We are able to accomplish amazing feats because of the willpower within us that we ourselves grow and train. It’s not because of a sky daddy. I believe in my strength. I believe in my ability. I believe I have grown both of those things myself.
A better phrase: You’re strong, you can get through this. I believe in your strength.
A question: Have you heard of *insert positive role model* (blog on that here)
I’m not going to keep harping on Christian and religion words because they might come from a good place and often do depending on the person. But, I don’t like it. Most of the time, it feels like a real slap in the face.
I’m not religious. I’ve honestly never felt comfort in the concept of God the way organized religions present it. That’s my choice. But in my time of suffering, don’t make me feel like your idea of God is the only thing that will fix me or bring me joy.
The other problem that we run into, is by deflecting our advice to godly or religious advice, we’re shucking off our responsibility in the matter. The “it’s in god’s hands” is the equivalent of “I don’t have to help”. That’s not right, no matter who you are or where you come from.
We have an obligation to help our friends and family when they’re suffering. No matter whether or not we want to acknowledge that something is happening, something is still happening. Telling someone to find strength in God when they’re battling with a huge crisis isn’t going to help a lot of people and may in fact make the situation worse.
I hope that these alternatives can be used in daily life, with religious folks and with non-religious folks. They are hopefully more concrete and can open up the discussion. Of course, you can always say you’re praying for someone or they’re in your thoughts, but that just doesn’t help. Figure out a way, with that person, to give them the support, solution, and love they need to be okay.