Why Platitudes Come From ‘Christian Surgeons’ – How to stop your words from causing hurt

Surgeons aren’t always known for having the best bedside manners. They may be great in operating theatres but sometimes struggle with communication. Sometimes followers of Jesus can be like this. We can struggle with our communication. We may try to show support, comfort or empathy but end up causing hurt. I call these types of people Christian surgeons. Let me show you why.

My daughter needed to have an operation just before her 1st birthday. I was concerned, just like all parents are. But talking to the surgeon didn’t help. I asked, “Do babies experience significant pain with the operation?” It’s a reasonable question. But his answer was very unhelpful. He replied “I don’t know. They can’t speak yet.”

In my years of following Jesus I’ve seen many Christian surgeons. They never touch a scalpel or enter an operating theatre. But they’re out there. The way they operate is by using platitudes. “It was obviously God’s will” they say to the grieving. They remind the depressed of “the joy of the Lord.” “God is trying to teach you something” they tell the suffering. Yes, there are many Christian surgeons.

I’m not alone in seeing them. There are even some in the Bible. Job was a man who faithfully followed God but experienced suffering. All of his children were killed. He lost his wealth. And his health failed. When he needed people to sit with him and share his grief, the surgeons arrived. What did they say? Job’s wife told him to “curse God and die.” His 3 ‘friends’ told Job it was his fault. He must have done something to make God so angry.

The problem with the ‘friends’ isn’t that they were wrong. But rather, they didn’t really even care about Job. Being right concerned them. Job was left alone in his grief and suffering having been abandoned, covered in ashes and left sitting amongst refuse. Rejection was the result of the surgeons.

A Word for Christian Surgeons

If you are a Christian surgeon please stop. I know you mean well, but your words devalue and reject people. There is another way. But it is costly. It requires you to get dirty. It means sitting with hurting and broken people and joining with their pain. And don’t, whatever you do, don’t try to explain things. Just think about the shortest verse in the Bible, Jesus wept. He grieved the death of a friend. He joined the deceased’s family in sorrow. Now, yes, he brought Lazarus back to life, but not before sharing in sorrows.

An Apology

If you have experienced a surgeon’s words, I want to make an apology. I am sorry. I’m sorry you experienced this and any hurt they caused. Not all followers of Jesus are like this. In fact, the Jesus I follow didn’t just join with those suffering, but suffered on their behalf. There’s is nothing he wouldn’t do for you. This is what the Cross is all about. He did everything required for you to know God, even though it meant he suffered. This is the Jesus I follow. You can too.

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