Axioms, idioms, proverbs, aphorisms; whatever you call them these tiny tidbits of “wisdom” permeate the popular consciousness. Many are very useful. Others, such as those below, offer abysmal and disempowering life advice.
- Better the devil you know than the one you don’t. This is one of those things a protective mother might tell you to keep you safe. It sounds like risk aversion advice, but it’s worse. It acknowledges that you’re dealing with a person or situation worthy of being called “the devil,” but encourages you stay put because taking a chance on change is supposedly more dangerous.
- Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt. Abraham Lincoln said this one so it must be true, right? Well, it’s pithy and could be true in some situations. However, most people have a hard time finding their voices. They don’t speak up, make their contribution because of fear of appearing foolish. That’s what makes this bad advice. The team, the country, the world is better off when everyone feels empowered to contribute without fear.
- Curiosity killed the cat. This is another one that assumes the worst and culls one of our most important traits as humans – our curiosity. Celebrate and be inspired by curiosity. Don’t fear it,
- Do as I say not as I do. This one requires little commentary. Never use this in someone else and never let it be used in you.
- Do not upset the Apple cart. Um, look around at the world. We need more people willing to upset the apple cart not fewer.
- East is east, west is west, and never the twain shall meet. This one is a battlecry for dogma. What is is. There are absolutes that can’t be changed. So why try? Nonsense. Beyond birth and death little else is unchangeable.
- You can’t teach and old dog new tricks. This one claims that once you reach a certain age, it’s too late to learn or change or that people can never change. Neither is absolutely true. As long as there’s breath there’s hope. It’s never too late to be the person you came here to be.
- All’s fair in love and war. Here’s a mindset that’s simply justification for bad behavior. No wonder relationships are in such chaos in our culture. Love is not a competitive sport. It’s not an excuse to become cut-throat. Aspire to something higher in your relationships.
- Every man has his price. This assumes that all people are unprincipled if tempted enough. It also is saying that normalizes this idea.
- Fight fire with fire. Here’s the mantra of people content to be vengeful and get even. Consider putting fires out in the world rather than pouring oil on them.
- Great minds think alike. I get that this one is usually said in fun when two people have the same thought. In truth, though, great minds think for themselves.
- Ignorance is bliss. This is among the most commonly used on this list and among the worst advice. It promotes apathy, disempowerment, and dependency. A strong human being ought never live in more ignorance than his or her seeking to date has left undiscovered.
There are more of these and I may do a second post on this down the line. Just because you’ve heard something said you’re whole life like it’s wise, doesn’t mean it is.
You’re all amazing. Take that to the bank! Have a great Sunday.