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What Doesn’t Kill Me

When you’re going through a hard time, people don’t always know what to say. The result is meaningless clichés or trite attempts to cheer you up. I’ve always had a problem with cliché phrases– the kind that don’t mean anything to the person saying them and don’t actually help the person hearing them. Silly things like, “Chin up” and “It’ll get better.” Really? How do you know? You don’t do your friends any favors by giving them light, fluffy hopes that aren’t rooted in anything. When deep pain hits we need rock solid truth to sustain us.

During his bout with cancer, Christopher Hitchens voiced similar frustration with some of the meaningless phrases we throw around. He spends a few pages attacking one of them in his book, Mortality. He says, “In particular, I have slightly stopped issuing the announcement that ‘whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.’” He goes on to say, “In the brute physical world… there are all too many things that could kill you, don’t kill you, and then leave you considerably weaker.” Can’t you just feel the joy?

It sounds depressing, but I think Hitchens is right in a sense. It is quite possible that we can…