One of the most pernicious and damaging lies, also one of the most pervasive, told by people to others and to themselves is: “It’s no use.” Variations on this falsehood include: “It doesn’t matter, anyway”; “Nothing I do makes any difference”; “I’ve tried everything and nothing works.”
On a macro, societal level, this deceit runs something like this: “They are just going to do what they are going to do.” They – my mother knew “them” well and frequently referred to “them” – are the invisible movers and shakers of society. “They say”; “They always win”; “You know they aren’t going to let anything as reasonable as that happen.”
On a political/governmental level, the lie expresses itself in terms like these: “I’m just one person. My vote doesn’t matter. My voice doesn’t make any difference. Nobody cares about the little guy.”
The lie becomes more destructive as it filters down to the relationship level. The more intimate the relationship, the more damage the lie causes. How many marriages have ended badly after one party or the other began to say, “It’s no use. Nothing is ever going to change.” To say, “It’s no use,” is to rob a person, especially oneself, of hope and, when hope dies, so do relationships.
The relationship between parent and child can suffer irreparable harm from the effects of this lie. When a child tells himself, “It’s no use. Nothing I do will ever please my parent,” the direction of that child’s life will change. When parents tell themselves, “It’s no use,” they are in danger of giving up on their God-given charge of loving, shaping, and sharing in their child’s life. A child’s relationship with a parent can survive many sins and rebellions, but it can be done in by the lie, “It’s no use.”
The lie is, however, deadliest of all when spoken to oneself. To say, “It’s no use,” and believe it, makes addictions unbreakable and relationships irreconcilable. When a person tells himself, Lynyrd Skynyrd-style, “It’s no use. Lord knows I can’t change,” his life is headed toward chaos and ruin.
A reader might object, “But in my case, it’s true: it really is no use.” That reader needs to understand that almost everyone, at one time or another, has believed the same thing and has been mistaken, so it is at least possible the demurring reader is also mistaken.
The lie, “It’s no use,” draws its power, like all lies, from a false image of how things really are. In this case, the false image of a static reality which we are powerless to change. But the thing about reality is that it is woven of billions of threads (or “strings” or “membranes,” if you are a physicist), and the thread that is in our hand may unravel the way things are and remake them. Rosa Parks, for example, pulled one string on a bus in 1955 and America began to change.
The Bible does not picture reality as static, as if it were the fixed stage on which we play our parts. Rather, the Bible pictures a reality that bends and adapts itself to the choices we make. As such, we have a God-given role, and the dignity that goes with it, to shape reality, including ourselves. We are not creators in the absolute sense that God is, but we are “sub-creators,” to use Dorothy Sayer’s term, with the momentous responsibility of cooperating with God in his construction project known as reality.
That construction project includes, as our area of oversight, the completion of ourselves as individuals. This is done under God’s authority and in cooperation with him. God, as the Bible strikingly portrays him, is like a potter. If, for some reason, the piece he is working on does not take its intended shape – does not “cooperate” – God will shape it into some other useful piece.
It is clear that God is flexible. He is willing – that is, he wills – to work with people. He allows them room to become themselves by making their own choices. So, to say, “It’s no use,” is both to abdicate one’s responsibility and repudiate God’s reliability. As long as God is in heaven and we are on earth, things can change.
First published by Gatehouse Media