A Cross To Bear: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
August 6, 2023

The expression "a cross to bear" refers to a burden or hardship that someone must endure, often something deeply personal or unchangeable. This idiom conveys the idea of carrying a heavy responsibility or dealing with a challenging situation. People use it to emphasize their struggles or to recognize the difficulties others face.

In short:

  • It refers to a serious problem or challenge that someone must deal with.
  • It illustrates the act of carrying a burden, often something deeply personal or painful.

What Does "A Cross to Bear" Mean?

The saying “a cross to bear” means having a significant problem or responsibility that must be endured. Whether it's a personal struggle, a professional challenge, or a painful circumstance, this idiom conveys a sense of carrying a weighty burden.

Let's dig into its main meanings and how it's used:

  • "A cross to bear" symbolizes a challenging or painful situation that someone has to deal with.
  • It might be something permanent or long-term, like a chronic illness, or something temporary, like a tough project at work.
  • The phrase emphasizes the effort and endurance required to cope with the burden.
  • It is often used to express support or understanding, as in, "Don't make decisions out of spite—it's a cross to bear that often leads to regret."
  • Some synonyms include "a heavy burden," "a tough responsibility," "a personal trial," and "a significant hardship."

Where Does "A Cross to Bear" Come From?

The idiom "a cross to bear" has deep historical roots in the Christian tradition. It alludes to the biblical story of Jesus carrying the cross on which he was crucified. This metaphor has evolved over time to represent the act of enduring a personal burden or hardship, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual.

Historical Example

"... the passing christian stranger, has a cross to bear, chiefly in cultivating the graces of his own heart - in keeping alive the flame of love to God the Saviour, amid the cares and perplexities that overcloud his humble days."

- The Christian Spectator, Volume 3, 1821

10 Examples of "A Cross to Bear" in Sentences

To help you understand when to use this idiom, let's look at some examples from different situations:

  • Hang in there, my friend. I know you have a cross to bear, but you are not alone.
  • Living with a chronic illness is a cross to bear for many people.
  • Being the sole caregiver for her elderly parents was a cross to bear for Susan, but she handled it with grace.
  • I'm sorry to hear that you lost your job; having that as a cross to bear must be difficult.
  • The team's failure in the championship was a cross to bear for the coach, who felt responsible.
  • Falling for you was never a mistake, but the distance between us is a cross to bear.
  • Being misunderstood because of his accent was a cross to bear for him in his new country.
  • This, too, shall pass, my dear. You have a cross to bear right now, but things will work out soon.
  • Complying with all the regulations can be a cross to bear for small business owners.
  • The dynamic duo had their individual flaws, each with a cross to bear, yet together, they were unstoppable.

Examples of "A Cross to Bear" in Pop Culture

This phrase can also be found in pop culture, reflecting the universal experience of facing challenges and burdens.

Here's where it has been used:

  • Vince Vogel authored a mystery novel titled "A Cross to Bear," which is the first book in the Jack Sheridan Mystery series.
  • The 2012 American drama film "A Cross to Bear" tells the unflinching and inspiring story of Erica, a would-be dancer fighting alcoholism, directed by Tandria Potts.
  • Billy Joel's song "Cross To Bear" includes the phrase in its lyrics.
  • Demon Hunter, a band known for its heavy metal sound, has a song titled "Cross to Bear."
  • Moloko's song "If You Have A Cross To Bear You May As Well Use It As A Crutch" creatively uses the phrase in its lyrics.
  • Barry Gibb's song "Cross To Bear" includes the line "Everybody's got a cross to bear," emphasizing a universal truth.

Other/Different Ways to Say "A Cross to Bear"

Various phrases can express the idea of enduring a burden or challenge.

Here are some other ways to say it:

  • Carrying a burden
  • Facing a challenge
  • Dealing with a heavy load
  • Enduring a hardship
  • Struggling with a problem
  • Living with a difficulty
  • Bearing a responsibility
  • Managing a tough situation
  • Handling a personal issue
  • Confronting a painful circumstance

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "A Cross to Bear":

  • What does "a cross to bear" mean?

"A cross to bear" means having a burden or challenging responsibility that must be faced or endured, often over a long period of time.

  • How can I use "a cross to bear" in a sentence?

You can use it to describe a difficulty or responsibility that someone must deal with. For example, “Having a disability is a cross to bear in and of itself. How society treats you makes it even harder."

  • Where does the phrase "a cross to bear" come from?

The phrase originates from the Bible, specifically from the story of Jesus carrying the cross on which he was crucified. It symbolizes enduring a personal burden or challenge.

  • Is "a cross to bear" used only in religious contexts?

No, while it has religious origins, "a cross to bear" is commonly used in everyday language to describe any sort of burden or challenge, not necessarily related to religious themes.

  • Can a positive situation be a cross to bear?

Generally, "a cross to bear" refers to something difficult or burdensome, so it is not typically used to describe positive or pleasant situations.

  • Does it always refer to a long-term burden?

Most of the time, yes. "A cross to bear" often implies a responsibility or difficulty that a person must deal with over a significant period of time, rather than a temporary issue.

  • Can it refer to both personal and societal burdens?

Yes, "a cross to bear" can refer to individual struggles, such as personal guilt or a challenging responsibility, and larger societal issues that a community or group must deal with.

  • Can you use it in formal or casual speech?

It can be used in both formal and casual speech, as it's a well-known idiom that many people understand to mean dealing with a significant burden or problem.

  • Does it imply personal responsibility for the burden?

Often, yes. "A cross to bear" usually implies that the person dealing with the burden has some level of responsibility for it, whether by choice or circumstance.

  • Can you use it to describe a collective burden of a group or society?

Yes, "a cross to bear" can also be used to describe a shared burden or challenge faced by a group, community, or society.

Final Thoughts About "A Cross to Bear"

The phrase "a cross to bear" speaks to enduring burdens, challenges, or responsibilities. It's a powerful way to describe the difficulties that life can present.

Here's a quick recap:

  • "A cross to bear" conveys the idea of carrying a weight or dealing with a significant issue.
  • Use it in various contexts to describe personal struggles or societal burdens.
  • Although it has religious origins, the phrase is widely understood and used in both formal and informal settings.
  • It often implies a long-term or significant burden rather than something trivial or short-lived.

Whether dealing with personal guilt, responsibilities, or societal challenges, understanding and using the phrase "a cross to bear" can add depth and insight to your conversations and writing.

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