Two six word phrases better left unspoken

We all occasionally kick ourselves in the mouth with our own feet.  It’s inevitable.  However, I have been thinking recently about two phrases that are particularly troubling to me, each for a different reason: the first because it is an expression of laziness and the second because it is utterly false.

The first phrase: “Words cannot express how I feel.” If words cannot express how you feel then why even bother to speak such an anemic sentence?  As I see it the uttering of such a phrase means that the speaker is either a. a lazy person  or b. someone who has no vocabulary.

God has given us voices and mouths and brains and experiences…so that we might be able to express how we feel in words.  I understand how in the heat of the moment…as in the Cardinals pulling out a stunning victory in the NFC Championship yesterday, could lead to someone speaking such a phrase.

But in the everyday stuff of life, this is a weak out and one that generally bugs me.  Karla thinks I’m a bit overboard on this, but that’s how I feel.  In this techy age it saddens me a great deal that spoken and written expression is probably at an all time low.

Well, perhaps the Middle Ages could compare.  Anyway,  just an encouragement to you all the next time you are tempted to use such a yawn of a phrase, to think twice.   Words cannot express how grateful I would be if you would do so.

The second phrase: “I know exactly how you feel” is not an anemic phrase, it’s just a false one.  Those who have at least a high school diploma in life skills should keep this phrase tucked into their back pocket only for the trivial matters of life.

For example, to the young man who loses a boggle game to his father, the father might rightly say to his son, “I know how you feel.”  With both father and son being competitive, and the matter not that important, the phrase gets a pass.

However, for an event with any gravity to it, these words are better left unspoken.  Regardless of what you or I have been through the best we can possibly say is that we might know something of what said person is going through… even if we think it looks exactly the same.

The graver the issue the greater is the offense and hurt of these words.  I know most people mean no offense by this phrase either, but this one hurts.  As a pastor I hear of, and see, many painful things…one of which is these six words spoken together.

Only the sovereign God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob revealed in the Bible could ever rightly speak these six words.  “The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore” (Psalm 121:7-8).

So what do some of you think about these two phrases?


4 thoughts on “Two six word phrases better left unspoken”

  1. Mike — totally agree with you on the “I know exactly how you feel phrase.” With slight modification it can become empathetic instead of an insult.


  2. Good commentary, you hit on a key point, integerity in times of trouble. When I hear someone say I know how you feel, in reality that person is lying. We don’t like to look at it that way but often thats how sin works. It has the appreance of good when in reality its evil.

    In one of my emials to you I mentioned I have no clue to how feel, what I do know, somehow this brings glory to God. That knowledge is why a believer can have peace during the storms of life. Its why we have hope, God doesn’t make mistakes and He is busy in each of our lives working out His perfect will. The rub comes when bad things happen to good people, at least from a human stand point. Who knows the mind of God?? I don’t and in the end may never know why God does what He does. All I can do is cry out to Him on your behalf asking Him to allow you a successful surgery and quick recovery.

    Enough from an old cowboy, love you bro, praying for you day and night.


  3. Hmm…I think I’ve said the second one, maybe not “exactly,” but I’ve said, “I can relate.” I wonder if that is the same? I can relate to Karla’s wanting your AVM out yesterday, because I wanted Jim’s tumor out yesterday the entire month between the time we found out about it, and the time he actually had it taken out. Do I know exactly how Karla is feeling? No, but I can relate to the “wanting it out yesterday” part.

    As is true with so many things, words actually do mean something. “Exactly” has a meaning, and it means exactly! Just like always, or everything, or never. I guess I would put “exactly” in the same category with words like “always, everything and never,” only God can say those and mean it…unless you say, “My heart will always beat until the day God says STOP!” or “I will never be a baby again.”

    If I’ve said this to you or Karla, I hope you’ll forgive me. I don’t know that I meant to offend you, or that I would have thought of it as lying, but truly, words do mean something.

    (Mike’s response: After I wrote this I was afraid that someone might think I was sending a subtle message about comments left for me or the family. Not at all! No one has said anything that I have found even remotely offensive. “Relating” is entirely different than “knowing exactly.” I was just trying to give y’all a little free pastoral counsel from some experience. Deborah, thanks for your kind remarks. Words cannot express how thankful I am. (: Mike)


  4. Never again will I use these two sentences for I agree wholeheartedly. Also, whenever I hear these two sentences I will think of Pastor Mike!
    Thanks for writing this for us to ponder and realize the importance of words.


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