Most people in tough spots don’t really want advice. They want presence. The comfort of silent companionship. A well-chosen sentiment can also be appropriate and meaningful. Most often, there are no magic words which will alter the actual circumstances–nothing that can be changed with the whiff of a wand.

     Still, many folks default to over-simplistic advice:

     “Chin up.”

     “Keep your head up.”

     “Just look up. It will be okay.”

     These pitiful attempts are substitutes for the comfort people genuinely wish to offer, but are incapable of delivering. You know it and they know it. Still, the words roll out and vanish in a puff, leaving little impact.

     In some cases, the response to these well-meaning platitudes is actually that of angst and frustration over lack of insight, or even anger.

     My favorite is “Chin up”. It wins the Let’s-Be-Trite-and-Useless award. Nothing gets my ire up more rapidly than someone who is belittling my circumstances–making light of an especially heavy burden by telling me simply to…

change the direction of my chin!

     You don’t understand how hard this is! How can you be so insensitive to my pain? Look up? You have got to be joking.

     Or, maybe not.

     As ridiculous as it may seem, telling people to “look up” surely has some sort of significant origin. It didn’t come from nowhere. This particular remark has lasted through the ages. A real thinker would take time to investigate.

     So, one particular morning (once I had already roamed the earth for over 40 years), I decided to take the advice of those “simpletons”. With the distinct purpose of proving them wrong, of course. 

     Stubbornly, I lifted my chin and

     looked up.

     Turns out, there was something to it…