Seriously, what is the deal in popular music with this worn-out and woefully inaccurate cliché?
The Kelly Clarkson hit with the phrase in its title.
Kanye West’s otherwise entertaining Stronger.
Will.I.Am’s That Power. Plus a
host of other songs by artists such as Theory of a Deadman, Pain, Dappy, Saving
Jane, Shontelle, KISS, Clay Aiken, Solarward, Kataklysm, Seventh Key, Heltah
Skeltah, and Carpathian, among others.
First of all, shame on all
of you for not coming up with more original song lyrics. It seems to me as if a
musician would at least want to use a different cliché from the one everyone
else is using. But maybe I’m being too harsh here. There aren’t many words that
rhyme with “longer,” after all. It’s not like “Every cloud has a silver
lining,” which has a multitude of rhyming possibilities. Pining, dining,
whining, signing… imagine the poetry that might be constructed around “mining!”
What really irritates me about this overused
phrase is not the words themselves, but the concept behind them. It’s true that
most of the time, if you survive a viral illness, you’ll develop immunity to
the germ that caused it and will arguably be “stronger” because of that. But
certainly in the realm of physical injury, anyone who has ever sprained a knee
or slipped a disc knows how vulnerable that spot becomes after you’ve hurt it
once. Yet consider this line from The Fighter
by Gym Class Heroes (which is a band I generally like, by the way):
“Every time you fall it's
only making your chin strong.”
Now that can’t be true, can
it? I would think that smacking your chin repeatedly would cause little
hairline fractures to form along the jawline, setting you up for a break later
on. Maybe what they mean is that repeated blows to the face deaden the nerves,
gradually causing you to feel less pain. That would certainly make sense;
otherwise how would boxers stand the abuse?
And maybe I’m being too
literal, interpreting this in the physical sense. I suppose one could argue
that suffering a mental trauma might make a person less vulnerable to emotional
dysfunction in future. But I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a psychiatrist
who would agree with that. Don’t we more often hear of repeated crises referred
to as “the straw that broke that camel’s back,” to employ another well-worn
platitude? And what about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? Tell front-line
soldiers that they’re stronger for not being killed in action and see where
that gets you.
No, the problem is that
people want to believe that they’re getting something out of their suffering;
that something positive results from pain. And maybe sometimes it does.
Suffering can change a person for the better. There’s value in learning to
endure pain. But for the most part it’s a trick; a deception practiced upon
one’s own mind to make hardship easier to bear.
The irony is – perhaps it
does. Maybe the delusion itself is what prompts us to “dust ourselves off” and
“get back on the horse.” Maybe that’s what makes us “look for the silver
lining” even when “the chips are down.” Maybe that’s how, when our world is at
its darkest, we are able to force ourselves to wait patiently for the dawn.
What doesn’t kill you doesn’t
make you stronger. But maybe believing it does.