We’ve all been the recipient of a pat answer, and probably given them out ourselves too. Christians are just as good at giving them out as anyone.
- You just need to get over it.
- I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phil 4:13
- Eat less and exercise!
- If it happened, it must have been the Lord’s will.
- Be happy you still have…
- Think on what is true.
- Just pray and read your Bible.
- Be consistent.
The thing about most of these types of answers is that they are true, therefore the bearer of the pat answer feels justified and even quite spiritual at delivering such an answer. Even though the phrase may be true, I think that generally it is wrong to give them out. What? How can they be wrong if they are true?
I think they are usually wrong because they are generally delivered without love, care, or concern for the person. When someone comes to me with something they are struggling with or sin in their life, they have just willingly become vulnerable. It’s humbling to reach out to someone for help. The last thing they probably need is a slap of truth as I walk away feeling great that I gave a spiritual answer. Yes, we need to speak truth and help someone see where they are wrong at times, but not by a pat answer. We need to speak the truth in love, bearing one another’s burdens.
I think pat answers are usually spoken out of self righteousness. If someone comes to me with an issue that I have struggled with or am struggling with, the responses are much more along the lines of, “Wow I’ve been there. I know it’s hard. I’m having a tough time with that too. Let’s pray for each other. Here is what has helped me. Why don’t we do a Bible study together? When that happened to me, the verse that really spoke to my heart was… What can I do for you? How can I help?” It seems to me that pat answers come most often when a person hasn’t struggled in those areas. Without even realizing it, we’re self righteous. We minimize the struggle or sin issue of someone else as simple since it’s not a temptation of ours. My struggle with anger isn’t somehow more legitimate than someone else’s struggle with worry. Both actually demonstrate a lack of trust in God. When I remember that my sin nailed Jesus to the cross, it’s a lot more difficult to be self righteous when it comes to other people’s sin.
Oh well, then there is always the person that has absolutely no idea what to say so they just end up blurting out a pat answer and hoping for the best. I know I’ve been there too! When I am the recipient of a pat answer, I try to give the person the benefit of the doubt and put them in this category–bless their hearts! 🙂
As I’ve been pondering the whole pat answer issue, I realize that I have been guilty of all these ways of giving pat answers: without love, in self-righteousness, and sometimes out of sheer helplessness of knowing what to say. But I don’t want to be that way. Would that I could always speak the truth in love!