I asked for some new voices from social media chums. Here is a Daniel Larsen, a former student.
Recently, a friend asked on social media what people thought about the church being criticized for saying “God will not give you more than you can handle”. The argument goes that the church should not be saying this because God will give us more than we can handle, but He will empower us to endure it. My friend then argued that was always the point of the contentious advice, but many responded that this nuance was not in fact given to them, so they found such a platitude to be unhelpful and were always wary of its perceived misuse.
Personally, I never experienced people giving me this advice without that entire story, but I certainly don’t have the perspective to comment on how wide-spread the abuse of that counsel is. Still, I think this scenario shows us something about the larger picture of people giving and receiving any kind of wisdom. Namely, we suck at it.
Humans have a track record of hearing a generalized statement and not paying attention to the whole context, and then they take a bad turn that is guided by their lack of a balanced perspective. It’s the stuff of all sitcoms: one character with a particular flaw is told they need to improve themselves, and then that character goes overboard fighting that flaw, until they become an even bigger headache to the rest of the characters who, exasperated, usually make the middle-of-the-road speech they should have given in the first place.In real life however, when that obvious moderation is not immediately given, things take a very unfunny turn, and then those counselors are often blamed as if they were wrong. While there is certainly a responsibility of all advisors to account for their words, many who stumble into a bad path are not honest enough to acknowledge that they might have ignored, not missed, the appropriate context. In an age when the tiniest failures are leveraged for allegations that others are responsible for our pain, simple precepts are always getting buried by the red tape of what should be an obvious follow-through, if the advisee would take the time to read the manual before testing the product.
This is why so many today feel the need, after declaring something like “x should not be everything”, to add unnecessary countervailing caveats like “I’m not saying I hate x”. They know from experience that denouncing the idolatry of x automatically opens them to the accusation that they are ignoring the good things about x, so they presume the ignorance of their audience and preemptively cover their rhetorical butts from any lawsuit.
We humans swing through extremes and are loathe to find the fault in our own stars when we can pin it on others. That combination kills the freedom to boldly speak plain truths, and this death of basic good judgment is exhausting for those who seek efficient and accessible as well as thorough counseling, without having to endure a fine print they didn’t need.