Some pills are really hard to swallow. They’re too big to go down easily. For me, the anticipation of how hard it will be to swallow a big pill makes it even harder to get it down. I anticipate it getting stuck. I expect that I might gag. I try not to taste it, but I know that if it doesn’t go down the first time, it is going to taste gross. I tense up. My throat constricts. And when I do manage to relax enough get it down, I sometimes have the feeling that the pill is stuck in my throat.
I read a definition that said that the idiom “a hard (or bitter) pill to swallow” means something that is hard to believe. For example, you might say that it is hard to swallow the excuses of a person who is untrustworthy. But I think that when we say that something is hard to swallow, it means that a truth is difficult but necessary to accept. You don’t want to accept the truth but you have to accept the truth just as you have to swallow a big pill for your own good.
Some truths are really hard to accept. They’re too big to go down easily. We resist accepting hard truths because they grate against what we want to believe. We resist tasting them and we resist feeling them because it’s unpleasant and we’re afraid we might gag. But the truth has to be accepted to do any good.
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