Just, a horrible, candle-snuffing word (Part 2)

“Just” is Alice in Wonderland’s shrinking potion: its power lies in making people smaller. In my last post I wrote about how we can throw it around to belittle ourselves and others, and to downplay or deny our desires, ambitions, and dreams. Today we’re going to tackle how the j-word can consciously or subconsciously belittle our struggles too.

Sometimes we use just as an excuse not to take pain seriously– our own or someone else’s. It’s no big deal. It’s all quite manageable. After all, it’s just a test. Just a break-up. Just a rough patch. It’ll pass, don’t worry, it’s just a phase.

Sometimes those things are true, and all we need is a little perspective to bring things back down to a manageable size. Sometimes the shrinking potion works to serve the good purpose of making things small enough to fit into a life we can manage.

But not always. And even when that is the case, pointing it out this particular way is almost NEVER the helpful or most loving thing to say to a person in crisis in the moment of crisis, no matter how big or small the situation seems to be to us, the outsider observers.

This is not something you can just get over. If it was, you’d have done it. Having made it this far in your life mastering the abilities to get yourself up and fed and clothed otherwise generally function as an adult, it’s probably safe to assume that by the time you get to panic, frustration, and/or crying to a loved one on the phone mode, you’ve already employed every “just get over it” technique in your arsenal. That means you’re looking for some real support here, some kind of meaningful understanding and help.

Responding in these moments with “just” statements is a lot like when David, the tech support guy, finally answered the phone after an hour of offbeat auto-tuney smooth jazz holding music and asked, “I see, and have you tried plugging in the router?” The only thing keeping my pacifist beliefs in practice just then was the physical barrier of the phone preventing me from smacking him up side the head with the obviously previously plugged in router. I’ve got the basics of how this works down, Dave. I’ve done all the stuff my intuition and tech-savvy friends and even Google have suggested, and then and only then have I called you, the expert, for some legitimate help. So I need you to dig a little deeper there, champ.


We’re not stupid. We’re actually incredibly creative, smart, adaptable creatures who find ways to carry on far beyond what seems possible to endure. We’ve taken all the steps we can up to this point, and now maybe we’ve just hit our limit. That is a just I’m okay with: recognizing that sometimes we just need each other. Sometimes we just need a little help. Let’s remember that and just be there for each other, loves, no cliche words of comfort or motivation necessary. Deal?


One thought on “Just, a horrible, candle-snuffing word (Part 2)

  1. Ellen Morris Prewitt says:

    After almost 6 years of non-response from an oil company, I was on the phone with a chick who told me I should have “just” done X. I wanted to come through the phone at her. Her company had caused the problem, and she was thoroughly talking down to me. So I love your analogy!

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