Platitudes are the more annoying cousin of cliches. They are commonly used by idiots to be indirectly condescending to people who are experiencing a great deal of stress or grief. Granted, the idiot is generally not aware that they are being condescending nor are they are aware that what they are saying is a platitude. So let us dig deep into the psyche of a platitude user and try to understand why they are so abhorrent.
For the record a platitude is a "dull or trite remark, uttered as if it were fresh or profound." Cliches are often disposable sayings that have lost all meaning through repetition. They are commonplace and used in every day situations to express everyday feelings about everyday things, everyday.
Platitudes on the other hand strive for the profound and attempt at their heart to express something meaningful but fail horribly. A human misconception (with an emphasis on the male species) is that all problems CAN and SHOULD be solved as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, matters of an emotional nature can rarely be broken down, assessed and corrected over an afternoon of coffee. Further, any priceless advice or wisdom that someone might dispense in order to quickly correct a problem generally registers as an insult rather than a helping hand.
I think the original idea behind platitudes deep inside their nougaty caramel center was a promise of wisdom and guidance. These sayings were supposed to provide reassurance that the afflicted was not alone in their suffering, or if they were alone in their suffering, that it was somehow important and justified. So was born a famous platitude: "Everything happens for a reason." Granted, the thought that all things are connected and every life is equal but opposite is a good thought/feeling to project. However, I suspect the guy who accidentally lit himself on fire and burned to a smoldering heap might have preferred an unplanned chaotic torrential downpour to help quench the burning in his inflamed skin.
As long as life eventually takes an upward turn it is easier to put life changing events into perspective and weather the storm. However, to the men/women who continually suffer throughout their whole lives until their untimely death I don't think that the mantra "Everything happens for a reason" is providing much solace. I don't think that the bloated stomached, emaciated, disease infested African babies find comfort in the knowledge that their suffering is perhaps making the apathetic, bored, bloated first world masses incrementally more appreciative of their own lives.
Some platitudes remind us to seize the day or to strike while the iron is hot. But, they also remind us that patience is a virtue and that good things come to those who wait. In essence often two opposing platitudes neutralize each other. If one of the above statements is true then half the world is misinformed and is being sent off to certain death. The other possibilities are that both camps of opposing statements are either both true or both false. In that case neither of the phrases need to be stated as it is unnecessary to stress caution or confidence when both should be juggled equally. Further, there is no knowledge or advantage gained if both statements apply equally to opposite situations. What if someone is seizing the day when they should be practicing patience? In many instances in life we are faced with a choice and unless we know beforehand the ultimate outcome a simple recap of the possibilities is hardly necessary or beneficial.
So what's the subtext here? People who need support require it in all encompassing, personally involved ways. If you don't possess the courage, strength or resources to help nurture someone through a tough time please resist the urge to insert a platitude. No one wants a condescending prick pretentiously pontificating a less than poignant point.