“Avoid cliches,” is one of the first things any writing class worth its pencils will teach. Clichés are not only a sign of unoriginality but lazy thinking in general–a truth that applies to speech as well as the printed word. And some clichés are worse than others. Here are two clichés that clearly illustrate the weak thinking of their users. Avoid them like the plague. (Yes, that’s a joke.)
Cliché #1. “I’M NOT PERFECT.”
What the proud bearer of this cliché fails to recognize is just how remarkably arrogant this statement is. Not perfect? Really? You? Imagine that. All this time everyone thought you were. No, maybe you can’t walk on water, but didn’t you once feed a football stadium with three hot dogs and a bag of nachos?
What makes this cliché especially insidious is how often it’s invoked by people who have just committed some heinous act of cruelty. “Yeah, I killed him, officer. I’m not perfect.” Believe me, no one was expecting perfection, but a reasonable modicum of decency would have been nice. The next time you catch yourself using this cliché, do yourself, and the world, a favor and cut off your tongue.
Cliché #2. “THERE’S TWO SIDES TO EVERY STORY.”
There are multiple variations to this stale little chestnut, i.e. No matter how thin the pancake it still has two sides, Every coin has two sides, blah, blah, blah.
Right. Tell that to the two-year-old child I saw in the hospital last year who had been beaten unconscious by his mother’s boyfriend. I’m sure the boyfriend’s side of the story warranted all of our consideration.
Or maybe if someone had shared this cliché with the millions of people who were tortured and murdered by Hitler, Stalin, or Pol Pot, the victims might have felt much better about their deaths–because even despots have their side of the story, right? Same pancake, same coin?
This lazy, “two-sides” nugget of wisdom is nothing more than moral relativism at its worst. And, like a compass with no needle, it’s useless. I’m not saying that there aren’t reasons people do what they do–Psych 101, of course people have reasons for their behavior no matter how depraved it might be–rather, I’m stating the self-evident truth that there is evil in this world. And the way this cliché gives evil the same standing as charity, mercy and civility is an evil in itself. By the way, this also includes the sister phrase, “There’s good and bad in all of us,” another mindless cliché that’s similar to comparing bottled water to sewage. Yes, they are both primarily H2O, but one is clearly superior to drink.
But smart people already know that.
Remember to SHARE.
Richard Paul Evans is the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of 27 novels. If you’re new to Richard’s books we recommend the New York Times bestselling The Walk series, the story of a man who, upon losing his wife, home and business, decides to walk across America. Or his latest novel, a love story, The Mistletoe Promise, available in all formats.