Paltry Proverbs

If there was one thing Facebook is good for (or possibly bad for) is the dispensing of canned advice through adages, proverbs, clichés, and quotes from a random assortment of famous people. I’m not going lie, I do love a good quote now and then. There have been great minds in our history who have profound things to say. There is one adage that annoys me to no end, and so you’ll have to forgive for doing a little bit of venting.

“God only gives you only what you can handle”.

Now this has nothing to do with me being an atheist. Even if I was a theist this statement would be wholly false. Like many of the adages floating out there on social media at best this applies to first world citizens, but even then it still seems like it could end up insulting a lot of people.

My first thought when I first heard the expression: well how many people die of starvation every day? For your information 1.5 million children starve to death in the world each year. That’s over 4,000 children a day, or about 1 child every 20 seconds. Clearly these children were given a situation in which they could not handle. Why would God give children such a situation to begin with?

What about all the people who die of cancer, heart disease, or other fatal conditions? What about the people who suffer nervous breakdowns, have undiagnosed trauma, severe depression? What of those who go a step further and tragically take their own life?

There is no doubt that all of us have a certain amount of adversity we have to face in life. We of course want to survive and for the most case if we can handle it, we will. Nobody wants to just let a difficult situation destroy their lives, or weaken them to the point of personal neglect. Ultimately we handle adversity the best way can, and hope that we are better and stronger for it afterwards. But there are plenty of situations that are beyond one individual.

What is most bothersome about the saying is what it implies about you if you couldn’t handle the situation. If God gives you only what you can handle, if you didn’t handle it, then it must be your fault in some way. You must be doing something wrong. If this message is supposed to give you strength to handle a situation, failure to do so may not bring you the peace you desire.

In the end it is a fairly empty piece of advice, applicable to relatively mild situations, and really only verifiable in hindsight to someone who got through a difficult situation successfully. Personally I think we can come up with something a little more helpful than this expression.

11 thoughts on “Paltry Proverbs

  1. I prefer the Einstein and Sagan quotes, myself!
    The quote you mentioned has always rankled me. You hear it a lot in the South. I have had to hold back from saying, “That’s bullshit,” at least once. It’s up there with “God is good” IMO. Really? Good…AIDS, starvation, cancer, school shootings, genocide… Yep, those are all goooood.


  2. ryan59479

    Another similar adage I can’t stand is when a person dies and invariably someone remarks, “God needed him/her more in heaven than He did on earth.” Wtf is that supposed to mean? What does God need people in heaven for? Entertainment? Conversation? To fix a leaky pipe? Come on now…


      1. ryan59479

        Exactly! If we all revert to some metaphysical form at the end, one would have to wonder why God didn’t just create more angels or whatever if he needed other beings in heaven. Why create corporeal beings in another physical realm just to wait for them to die and revert back to their non-corporeal form? Seems fairly convoluted, like many things god does lol.


    1. By the way, while I have you on my page, I’ve been meaning to ask you how you acquired that Jonathan Silcox guy? Is he a friend or acquaintance? I follow a few other atheist blogs and everybody seems to have one person who sort of belligerently attacks everything the blogger says and quotes bible versus out the wazoo. I don’t have one yet. Hope springs eternal. LOL


      1. ryan59479

        I think I just happened to see something he wrote about evolution on the science feed, and I replied to add my two cents and clarify a few things, and then he did the same to my blog, etc. Despite our fervent disagreement on many issues, I do value his input to the conversation. Whether I like it or not, he represents a large chunk of people in this country. Plus, I always enjoy hearing dissenting viewpoints if for no other reason than to make sure that I’m not living in an echo chamber.


        1. Thank you, I see. I agree that it is good to hear different view points, but I usually don’t find that he makes very logical arguments. He commits many argumentation fallacies and I guess I’ve just got tired of arguing with people that use the Bible as proof of their point. LOL There are lot of religious people who make good points, I guess I just don’t see him as one of them, but it’s your cross to bear. 🙂 Just hopefully he doesn’t start following me. LOL


          1. ryan59479

            Lmao. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you. I know, there are plenty of fallacies in the arguments that he puts forth, but that’s religion for you. If there’s one thing I try to keep in mind when dealing with religious people, it’s to stay empathetic. For people like him (I’m guessing, I don’t know his life story), this religious stuff, however paradoxical and nonsensical it is, has been hammered into their consciousness and subconsciousness for their entire life. You and I both know about neural pathways and tracts, and how difficult it is to overcome behaviors that have become literally hardwired into our brains.

            In that way, to me, there’s really no difference between a religious person and someone who’s trying to change any other habit, say something like biting fingernails. I firmly believe that some people are neurologically hardwired to be more religious or spiritual than others–the centers in their brain that create a sense of “otherness” are greater than those in nonbelievers.

            That’s why no matter how much evidence, logic, and reason you put in front of the religious, they don’t change, and they just revert to the same arguments: their biochemistry and neurological hardwiring is creating a cognitive dissonance. But the key there is that it isn’t a willful dissonance. Their brains just need to be retrained, like the guy trying to stop biting his fingernails.

            This is turning into rambling…haha


            1. You ramble well my friend no worries. 🙂 I’m totally with you. You’re right I guess I don’t mind the comments so much, but a couple times he has clearly been trying hard to get me to engage him and I just don’t enjoy engaging people like that. I think people like him might be easier to engage in a face to face conversation, because what you really need to do is ask them a series of questions that makes them think instead of doing the thinking for them and just argue at them. Perhaps I am not artful enough at my writing to engage people like him effectively!


  3. LOLOLOL – one might inform all the therapist who work with those who have not measured up to this quasi-quote (and others) in such despair of failure.
    As to what has been hammered into our conscious minds; there is a point where we all must realized the propaganda and think for ourselves.
    I believe this is part of growing up and taking a good look at life and our own responsibility of our lives verses thinking some thousand year old deity will change our lives for the better.
    Last and it’s quirky sense of humor does not always leave one stronger; some kill themselves through long term suffering, some turn to drugs and other substances that drone out the life experience etc……….
    The only value of religion or beliefs have in our society is in hopes those individuals will form a valuable degree of honor – integrity – compassion – understanding as common qualities (as well as a bevy of more standards) and at some point grow up!
    Ok, I am stepping off my soap box :~)


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