I understand the sentiment of the “It Gets Better” campaign, I really do.
Perhaps you’ve seen the public service announcements on television. A variety of celebrities and public figures speak the line to the camera – “It gets better.” The campaign is designed to encourage LGBTQ youth, and more broadly, kids who are being bullied. The implication: don’t despair, things will get better in time, if you hang in there, someday you’ll arrive at a place where all of this doesn’t matter.
In our desire to comfort, we say things like “haters gonna hate,” or, “they’re just jealous,” or “karma will come back to bite them.” But those platitudes do little to ease the pain of a young heart that’s hurting, the heart of a person who lacks the experience to see further down the road. So let’s be honest about how things “get better.”
Let’s say, “I know this hurts.” Let’s say, “These people are wrong, but they don’t see it.” Let’s say, “Never think you’re alone, because I love you and I am always on your side.” Let’s honor the pain and the sense of injustice, and let’s be cautious about offering platitudes that may dishonor someone’s anguish. The first thing to say is “I love you and I am here for you.”
Things *will* get better, but not on their own. Things get better when we get stronger, when we understand the world in a more nuanced way – and those things take time and maturity. We have to grow through them, and into them. The bullies may never change, but *we* can change, and we can guard against letting our hearts get hard.
So yes, “it gets better,” but the slogan alone isn’t enough to comfort the young person who is feeling the sting of rejection right now, in this moment. When you have a physical injury, people can say “it’ll get better,” and on an intellectual level, you may know they are right. But for now, it’s hurting. For now, you need treatment, comfort, relief from pain. You can endure the challenges of healing when you have the relief and support to get you through.
I don’t mean to discount the work of the “It Gets Better” campaign (visit their website – it looks like they do great work). Rather, I worry about people who throw this meme and slogan around as if it’s an answer to the problem. In our efforts to help, let’s take care not to dishonor the difficulty someone is going through in this moment.
Let’s say, “I’m here. I care. You can count on me.”