The Best Advice You Never Took

“What is a proverb you remember from growing up?”I began the morning by asking the thirty people seated around tables with their Bibles and notebooks open. They were from United Methodist, Presbyterian, Church of Christ and Episcopalian backgrounds and had gathered in the fellowship hall at St Paul’s United Methodist Church, Houston for the Perkins Seminary Lay School of Theology. I thought it was pretty amazing that 30 people would give up a sunny Saturday in late January to come to my class called “Short Sentences from Long Experience: The Proverbs of the Bible.” But there they were.

They began writing their proverbs on the note cards I’d placed on each round table.

I collected them later and asked if it was ok to put them in my blog. Obviously, they said yes.

So here they are. I didn’t specify they had to be biblical. But some were

Biblical Proverbs

Spare the rod and spoil the child.

Get the log out of your own eye before you can see to get the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

The lazy person will not prosper.

If you would only keep silent, that would be your wisdom! (Job 13:5)

Some were well known sayings, at least to people over 50.

Don’t judge another until you have walked a mile in his shoes.

Beauty is as beauty does!

Cleanliness is next to Godliness.

Look before you leap.

Waste not, want not.

Pride goes before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)

A stitch in time saves nine.

Some had to do with the wise and foolish use of speech.

It is better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt.

If you can’t say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything.

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never harm you.

You would argue with a sign post and take the wrong road home.

If you don’t toot your own horn you shall remain in a state of untootedness.

Some were what are called “anti- proverbs,” that result from messing with traditional proverbs.

A bird in the hand gathers no moss.

A penny saved is a penny.

The early worm feeds the bird.

If you love something, set it free. If it does not come back to you hunt it down and kill it.

Some appeared to be regional proverbs or proverbs from other countries.

That dog don’t hunt.

Don’t be naughty at Christmas or you will get coal in your wooden shoes instead of a gift. (From Holland)

That don’t buy the baby chewing tobacco (from Yoakum, Texas)

Root, hog, or die.  (This one is from my dad who grew up in rural North Carolina)

A short horse is soon curried. (Gary, the man who shared this one, said he learned it from his father who learned it from his father who came from Germany.)

Others had to do with general attitudes and strategies for living (that work and that don’t)

Don’t run down the road to meet trouble. (This is from my mom. I think she made it up, but everybody’s mom told them this?)

If everyone put their problems in the center of the room, you would grab yours and run.

What you sow you also reap.

What goes around comes around.

Don’t put your cart before the horse.

A fool and his money are soon parted.

Once bitten, twice shy

90% of what you worry about never happens, and the other 10% you can’t do anything about anyway.

Holding a grudge is like taking poison and expecting someone else to die.

Never kick a sleeping dog.

Good better best. Never let it rest, till your good is better and your better is best.

Experience is a great teacher if you don’t bleed to death first.

If we were all alike, it would be a boring world.

Have children and nothing else.

You ought to be doing what you ought to be doing.

Some had to do with practical bodily functions

Better to let it out and bear the shame, than to keep it in and bear the pain.

And, to end on a higher note, a couple had to do with God.

God gave you a brain and expects you to use it.

Be careful what you ask God for. He may give it to you.

There is a whole field of study of proverbs called paremiology. People who specialize in the study of proverbs are called paremiologists. Even people who didn’t listen to their parents’ advice often remember it.  I’d say that everybody is an amateur paremiologist.

So send me a proverb you grew up with so I can add it to my growing collection.

About Alyce McKenzie
  • Richard Hearne

    Nothing is ever easy.

  • Richard Hearne

    Nothing is ever easy. From my Dad. For example, if you are screwing in four screws, the first three are easy and the fourth is difficult


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