Wise Words from Kate Bowler
Sometimes it helps to acknowledge that life sucks and not constantly pressure ourselves or others to have a positive attitude and be grateful
Kate Bowler wrote the bestseller Everything Happens for a Reason (and Other Lies I’ve Loved) after she was diagnosed with stage four cancer at age 35. She published a second memoir, No Cure for Being Human (and Other Truths I Need to Hear), in 2021.
Both books are brutally honest accounts of how hard life is sometimes, and how harmful the message that if we think positive thoughts we can overcome anything can be.
I cried often as I read them, laughed occasionally, and appreciated her willingness to tell unpleasant but ultimately liberating truths. Her words provide a much-needed counterpoint to statements like these:
“If you work hard enough, you’ll be given what you deserve.” - Shaquille O’Neal
“You can make your life what you want it to be.” - Napoleon Hill
In contrast to those false promises, No Cure for Being Human includes truths like these:
“She is a therapist and one of the wisest Christians I know, so she is keenly aware that a well-placed expletive is better than all the inspiration in the world.”
“We are trapped between a past we can’t return to and a future that is uncertain. And it takes guts to live here, in the hard space between anticipation and realization.”
“Everyone is now a televangelist of the gospel of good, better, best. Harness your mind to change your circumstances. … But I cannot outwork or outpace or outpray my cancer. I can’t dispel it with a can-do attitude.”
Everything Happens for a Reason offers these wise words:
“When someone is drowning, the only thing worse than failing to throw them a life preserver is handing them a reason.”
“The truth is that no one knows what to say. … Pain is awkward. Tragedy is awkward. … But take the advice of one man who wrote to me with his policy: Show up and shut up.”
“Just remember that if cancer or divorce or tragedies of all kinds don’t kill you, people’s good intentions will. Take the phrase “but they mean well …” as your cue to run screaming from the room.”
Some people don’t want to hear painful truths like the ones Kate Bowler shares. They prefer to believe the lie that they control their own destinies and can have anything they want. Self-help gurus and prosperity gospel preachers get rich from selling that message. It’s a very popular delusion, and I understand its appeal.
I prefer to accept the reality that sometimes bad things happen no matter how carefully we plan, how hard we work, or how often we think positive thoughts. Ultimately, it feels better to face that truth than it does to believe every hardship or tragedy is solely the result of something I did wrong (or failed to do).
It’s healthier for me to recognize that I can’t always avoid painful events or find a way to benefit from them.
It’s equally true that some of the best experiences of my life did not happen because I planned or worked for them. They were wonderful surprises, like meeting the man who has now been my husband for more than 30 years.
Knowing that I don’t deserve all of the credit for the good things or blame for the bad things makes it easier to adapt to whatever happens. It helps me stop desperately trying to control circumstances and other people and accept that I cannot.
So what do you think? Do you find quotes like the ones from Kate Bowler’s books comforting or depressing? Are you inspired by quotes like the ones I called false promises? What are some of your favorite quotes, and why?
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