Things Christians Say That Aren't Helpful and How to Fix It
I grew up in a southern Christian household and live in the Bible Belt in Texas. I have heard these "Christian" phrases my whole life and they just recently started to bother me. I truly believe they come from a good place in peoples' hearts but the words really lose their meaning when they are thrown around so casually. I have created a list of some of these common phrases and my own translation from the way I have seen them used. The therapist in me couldn't help but provide an alternative phrase for Christians to use that will make a more powerful impact. Please do not misinterpret this as an anti Christian article. It is quite the opposite. My aim is to enlighten and educate.
"Well, I'll be praying for ya!"
Typically said when someone is sharing about something difficult going on in their lives and the other person isn't quite sure how to respond.
Can often be used as a cue that the conversation is coming to an end and you aren't sure how to wrap it up.
Can unfortunately be used when you have lost interest in the conversation and are ready for it to be over.
I hear this all the time in my world and it used to be a sense of comfort until I realized how over used it is and how unlikely it feels that that person is actually going to go home and pray for me. Some of you may be offended by this because you truly do go home and pray for that person but I am not meaning to offend. That is amazing if you put that person on your prayer list! The only problem is that they may never know. So what can we do instead?
Alternative Phrase #1
"Can I pray with you?"
This shows immediate action and does not make the person feel like they are being brushed off or hurried into ending the conversation.
This validates what they are going through and shows them you really care about their well-being and want to actively be part of their healing through your faith.
It allows you to hold physical and spiritual space for the person so they can immediately feel your support and the positive impact will last beyond the interaction.
This might feel awkward at first but even during times in my life when I haven't been particularly religious it has made a huge impact on me when someone asks to pray with me or even just pray for me on the spot. If you aren't sure if the person is religious you can just say "I don't know if you are religious but would you mind if I just prayed for you right now?". That time and intention can mean the world to someone who is feeling alone in their distress.
"When God closes one door he opens another."
Typically said to try and console another person when they have experienced a lost opportunity.
Can often be used when you aren't sure what else to say or how to comfort them.
Can unfortunately be used when you feel that the issue someone is struggling with is not that big of a deal and they should just move on.
I know you might be saying this with the best intentions but it just isn't helpful. First of all it implies that God would keep you from having something in life that you strongly desire or doing something you're passionate about. This isn't a great light to put God in and is definitely a turn off for people who are already unsure about religion. Secondly, it alludes to the fact that God will just give you a different opportunity and you just have to wait for it. This can be disheartening because it makes people feel that they do not have any control over their own destiny or that no matter what they do, if God doesn't want it to happen, then it won't.
Alternate Phrase #2
"I know you're upset that this didn't work out but you are so strong and you will find a way to achieve your goals."
This phrase is validating and empowering.
It gives space for them to be sad and disappointed but it reminds them that they are strong enough to get through it and determined enough to move forward towards their goal.
If you want to relate it back to God you can add "Take some time to pray on it so you can find peace and purpose to move forward".
You may find it hard to move away from this phrase because it is something that does give you comfort but it's important to understand how this can feel to someone who feels broken or hopeless. By shifting the focus onto their strengths you can encourage them to do the same. When someone has lost an opportunity or failed at something it can take a toll on their hope and confidence in the future and this phrase can validate their disappointment while still focusing on their qualities that will allow them to take charge of what happens next.
"At least they are in a better place now."
Usually said after someone dies and you are trying to comfort their loved ones.
Can often pop out of your mouth when you don't know what to say to console someone who is grieving.
Can unfortunately be used when you are uncomfortable being around someone who is grieving.
Again, I know you mean the best but this is just not comforting to people when they have lost someone they love. This is also distressing to people who are unsure if heaven even exists. This phrase can invalidate or downplay grief and make people feel like they are wrong for feeling it. Unprocessed grief can cause major mental health issues later down the road.
Alternate Phrase #3
"I know this grief feels unbearable and you will miss them so much. I am here for absolutely anything you need."
This shows the person who is grieving that you are comfortable with and accepting of their strong emotions and here offering support.
When you offer support right after a validating statement they will be more likely to trust that you truly mean it and will fell more comfortable reaching out to you.
Most importantly this allows the grieving person to feel comfortable showing their grief instead of having to cover up their feelings because you might not be comfortable with their expressions of grief.
Being a Christian doesn't mean that you have to relate everything to God all the time. Sometimes our actions speak so much louder than the cliche Christian phrases we offer up as comfort. Christians should strive to be like Christ. When someone was suffering did Jesus just speak comforting words or did he use his actions to physically comfort people? Did he tell his disciples to take a load off and wash their feet or did he get down on the ground and wash their feet himself?
"You know, it's just all part of God's plan."
Typically said when something painful is happening and you want to give meaning to the suffering and hope that everything will work out.
Can often be used when you don't know what kind of advice is helpful.
Can unfortunately be used to try and help people move on from past trauma.
This phrase can be harmless in most situations but it still doesn't give the desired comfort. In more serious situations it can cause people to feel that the pain they have endured was somehow something that God put them through on purpose. I have seen this phrase cause great internal distress for people who have experienced trauma in their past. When you try to comfort someone in pain by telling them this is part of God's plan for them it can create a helpless feeling and give them a reason to be angry with God. I have experienced so many people pushed away from Christ because they can't come to terms with having faith in a God who would put them through so much pain.
Alternate Phrase #4
"We don't always know why difficult things happen in life but God has given you strength to overcome this."
Again, you are reminding the person of their strength and giving them encouragement while still bringing God into the conversation.
This takes the focus away from the frustration of not knowing why something happens and keeps them from being able to use God as a target for their anger.
This gives them hope that they will move on and move forward from this set back.
You can bring God into conversations without creating an existential crisis for someone by alluding to the fact that it was God who kept them from being successful. As Christian's it is important for us to realize that not everyone is on the same journey we might be with religion and you want to encourage them to find strength in God and not blame.
"Now you know I'm a good Christian woman!"
Typically used to inform someone that you are a Christian and/or go to church regularly.
Can often be used as a way to describe yourself if others are trying to discredit you.
Can unfortunately be used with a "but" after it and followed up with a rude or hateful comment about someone else or an action you would like to take that would be "unchristian".
It's absolutely fine to use this phrase as a qualifier for yourself but if you are saying it with the intention of following it up with something tacky or mean just stop yourself right there! This type of comment is a huge reason why people view Christian's as hypocritical and fake. We should never use our religion as a justification to say something hateful about others and think it makes it okay because we clarified that we wouldn't typically do that. That honestly makes it worse! Do you think Jesus would have said, "Now you all know I'm the Son of God but I just have to say that Judas is a real a-hole!" Definitely not. Watch yourself when you are boasting about your Christian status right before doing something that does not represent Christians in a good light.
Alternate Phrase #5
"I am a good Christian woman so I'm going to choose not to participate in this gossip."
Let's others know that because you are a Christian you refuse to put others down or be cruel to others.
This shows an amazing example of God's love for everyone, not just good Christian's.
This is a good opportunity to show others how to be like Christ and what it means to be a "good Christian".
I know none of us are perfect and God loves all of us but as Christians we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard and not fall into the ways of the world. If these are phrases you find yourself using often it might be time to reevaluate the way you use God in everyday conversations!