10 Popular Proverbs Redefined
As a child, I grew up in fear mostly because of all the rules I had to follow in school and the punishment I would get if I were to break anyone of them. I belonged to the era when having dirty fingernails in school meant facing the pain of a wooden ruler hitting my defenseless tiny hands. To avoid this kind of punishment and embarrassment I learned to be a "good girl" following all the rules and taking things to heart. Proverbs posted above blackboards that were regularly replaced by new ones provided the guide with which we were to strictly follow in order to remain "good". The manner in which I understood them then, was based on several factors but somehow these proverbs found its way of affecting my sense of worth and my view of the world.
This hub speaks of how I understood these proverbs in my formative years, how I interpreted them in my growing years and how I redefined them in my journey to healing. The more I researched on the origin of the proverbs chosen, the more I was able to put them in proper perspective. It is my hope this could somehow, encourage readers to take extra effort in explaining to children how these common proverbs came about to avoid misconceptions and prevent possible long term harm.
1. CLEANLINESS IS NEXT TO GODLINESS.
My teachers often used this proverb to motivate students to clean up after class or staying neat at all times. At the tender age of 4 I took it more like a warning -- if we didn't put it to practice then we would be as dirty as hell and would be burned in the fire.
This made me quite fearful. One time after playing with clay and hearing the teacher say clean up, I rushed about keeping things, ran toward the shelf but slipped along the way that I hit my right eyebrow at the edge of the teacher's desk. I held my forehead suppressing a scream to avoid being scolded by my teacher. When I saw the blood on my hands though, I let out a shriek! The teacher panicked as she bent down to look at me and I screamed the more fearing she would punish me. When she comforted me and carried me straight to the infirmary instead, I sighed in relief in between sobs.
As years went by, I saw this proverb in a different light. I thought it to mean that if we remove hatred, bitterness, resentment, doubt, and fear in our hearts and minds then we allow more room for God to work in our lives.
These days, I understand this phrase as a truth. When we are constantly connected with the Divine One we are able to lessen the negativity in our lives if not eradicate it all together and in the process act in a more "godly" manner or "saintly" one, devoid of fear and rich in love.
2. HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY.
This was one proverb that often made me feel guilty. I usually had to invent a "sin" I committed when confession day came. You see, it was a requirement for grade school students to go on a monthly confession. I remembered being confused more than once while nervously waiting in line for my turn. I didn't know if I should be honest and say that I didn't commit any sin then face the possibility of being called a liar by the priest or to lie, please the priest and confess to a sin I did not commit so that I could do penance. I normally ended up inventing sin or worst commit sin like stealing a classmate's pencil a few days before confession, so that I could say something honest. I learned to detest this proverb soon enough because of all the guilt it would bring me.
In my "rebellious years" I saw the value of being honest with everything I felt even if it displeased people or made me unpopular. I used this new found understanding in my fight against the atrocities done during the martial law era in the Philippines. I even made it an excuse to intentionally hurt those who thought we were too idealistic or thought it was useless for us to join rallies stopping the demolition of squatter homes in the city.
Today, I use it to illustrate the benefits of being truthful to the self in order to be truthful to others. Honesty helps us become more aware of ourselves. In so doing, helps identify our present state which guides us in deciding actions we ought to take to correct ourselves. Honesty extended to others with love will benefit all parties concerned. Honesty brings forth awareness, builds understanding, resolves conflicts and adds credibility. It IS the best policy.
3. CURIOSITY KILLED THE CAT
I was terrified of the fact that I could actually die if I asked too many questions. Cats, I've heard, had 9 lives and I only had one. That only meant the cat asked too many questions to consume all its lives.
I had my ears pinched several occasions by nuns and teachers when they'd catch me talking to my classmates during flag ceremony or forming a line to get to the chapel. Hey, I was just asking if they wanted to play jackstones after school or if they have memorized the five mysteries of the rosary. Nonetheless, hearing teachers blurt out the phrase when we asked too many "whys?" programmed me to stop asking questions. This is one of the reasons why I kept my mouth shut even amidst pain and confusion.
Matter of fact I was meek as a lamb when a teacher decided to punish me for not making my assignment by not letting me eat my peanut butter sandwich during recess. She commanded that I remain in the class alone with her for the whole 15 minutes and be still. I obeyed, holding back tears, trying to be brave, denying my rumbling tummy, as she devoured bread rolls at her desk.
I fooled around with this proverb in my teen years and used it to tease admirers. Some do tease back by adding --- "but satisfaction brings him back". Ooops! -- Too aggressive. Thus, I learned to use it as a shield to thwart possible hurt by speaking the words in the coldest of cold accented with a snobbish look.
These days, I don't use it. Curiosity is part of the learning process. A child learns better from experience. The "whys" of children need not be feared just because we don't have an answer or be rejected out right because we think they're not old enough to understand. Children can be the best teachers if we allow them. The "whys" session can be a good opportunity for adults to learn more about the subject matter in question. Besides, children can give the most profound insights in any topic under the sun if we listen close enough.
Oh, about the teacher who forced me to "fast"? My mom found my untouched sandwich in the bag when I got home and questioned me about it. I softy sobbed as I told her the truth. My dad had the teacher transferred to another section. Gee. I had super parents! (child-like grin)
4. BIRDS OF THE SAME FEATHER FLOCK TOGETHER
This proverb didn't help much when I found myself in section B of our grade one class. Our school in the late 1960s assigned students according to final grade average of the past year. The "bright" students belonged to section A and the "dull" ones in section C. Being average was not as satisfying as being in section A. I mean, I wanted to be known as one of the intelligent students and so during recess I found myself mingling with section A students. I don't know why, but it brought about this feeling that I needed to belong with the "right" group.
Only in my teenage years did I understand what it meant. Now I have added an element to explain this proverb further. People with similar interests not simply come together.
We draw people with similar pursuits into our lives. We draw in those who have answers to some questions we seek, those who may need that which we can serve, those who can provide the experience we need for healing to take place. It is WE inviting people into our lives and not US joining them no matter who made the first move, for no one can come into our lives unless we allow them to do so.
5. MONEY IS THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL.
I learned to dislike the rich because of this proverb. Getting high scores on my 5th grade formal themes in English suggesting what the rich can do to show more love for the poor and the needy reinforced this prejudice. I found out later that my favorite nun teacher even cited two of my papers in the class of - get this -- section A (!?) saying my insights were excellent! I found that odd. Why didn't she cite it on our section? Oh well, thus I became suspicious of the friendship offered by the rich kids in school. And yet deep inside me I wanted to be richer than them. I shuddered every time these "evil" desires invaded my mind and dispelled of them immediately lest I be damned to hell.
In college this concept became very real for me as I went on exposure and immersion trips to urban poor areas in the city -- all part our socio classes and community outreach programs. I blamed the lack of money being spread out to the ordinary people. I blamed those in power for their failure to provide opportunity to those in need. The next thing I knew, I was out there, with a placard in tow, marching in the streets, calling for justice, joining the many chanting "Makibaka! Huwag Matakot!" (Fight On! Fear Not!).
Now, I take it in the proper context to which it was originally written with lemon on the side. Love of money CAN be a cause of evil activities but I doubt it has its roots on evil. For what then shall we call the act of philanthropists and altruists, of charitable institutions and foundations, of agencies and organizations established to help provide food, shelter, clothing financial assistance and job opportunities to those who need it the most. Money can be an instrument to help fulfill our respective missions in life. We need not fear it.
6. IT IS BETTER TO GIVE THAN TO RECEIVE
I struggled putting this into practice. Whenever someone else played with my toys I readily took it away and held on to it like it was my dear life. I didn't care if the other child cried like hell! Pardon me. It's not that my toys were extra ordinary or something but it was given to me, a gift for me, bought for me and therefore they were mine! If other kids destroyed it I would end up owning broken toys or worst be blamed for not taking care of them.
You can therefore, imagine my turmoil whenever my parents asked me to give some of them away for typhoon victims or fire victims or flood victims or earthquake victims. "When will these victims stop taking away my clothes and toys anyway?" my possessive little self asked. I could not figure out what was better about giving and making others happy while I hurt giving away something I received from my parents which they claimed were expressions of their love for me?! Humph. It just didn't feel right.
It was easier to put this into practice in my college year after all I was "rallying" with the poor. Whatever I had I would readily share as I saw myself more fortunate than them being able to attend college and all. Our drama group would conduct theater trainings for free to help the establishment of community theaters in different barrios. This kind of service went on even after college. I felt good giving whatever I could to empower the urban poor by teaching them how to use theater in tackling socio-political issues their community and local government were facing.
Nowadays, I explain this proverb from a different perspective. According to Mother Theresa the greatest poverty of all is the poverty of feeling unloved. I agree. When we give to people that which they require for the moment we are actually giving them more than what meets the eye. We give them a chance to feel hope, a chance to see their value, see their worth, make them feel loved. This, I believe, is the greater part of why it is better to give.
7. YOU CAN’T HAVE YOUR CAKE AND EAT IT TOO
"What else can I do with a cake? Give it to calamity victims again?!" delivered with a quizzical look. In other words, I just couldn't understand what this meant until I reached my adolescent years.
I took it to mean we could never have anything we want and savor it. This fueled my growing negativity. I started to ask crazy questions like..."what's the use of doing good in school then?" Moving on to..." what's the use of graduating with honors then? Further down to ..."what's the use of protesting against a corrupted system then? Burrowing deep to ..."what's the use of living then?" Frustrated and depressed I started living in "victim mode".
Everything in life looked like they were all conniving to deny me a taste of my piece of the cake. "Forced fasting again?!" I declared. "Why?!" was a weekly shout to the heavens with fists raised in protest! Good intentions of people were like a mockery to me. Helping hands were like slaps to my face. Kind words were like jeers to my ears. Goody-two-shoes were hypocrites telling lies of all sorts. You get the picture.
I shake my head in remembering where I was and smile with gratitude in acknowledging my present state. I dare say the proverb in focus no longer holds true for me. I CAN have my cake and SAVOR its smooth, soft, sweet, delicious, delectable, tasty flavor ... of love.
8, OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS ONLY ONCE
Knock. Who's there? OPPORTUNITY. (casually) Opportunity who? No answer. (curios) Opportunity who? Silence. (irritated) OPPORTUNITY who?!! (realizing) Arrgh! Missed it again by this much!
A similar scene would play around my creative little mind when I overhear my big brothers persuade mom to make certain decisions. Taking the cue from my elder siblings I applied the concept in my race to becoming a "star". I would readily volunteer to sing a song in an acquaintance party at opening of the school year, even if I were the newcomer around. I would join in different categories of literary musical arts competitions from declamations, orations, original song compositions and the like. I represented the school in various competitions of the same nature and usually brought home the bacon as they say.
My adult life was motivated by such proverbs until I burned out. Check on my hub called "Competition or Creation for Success?" to get a better look at my frame of mind then.
At present, I believe "opportunity" never knocks. It doesn't have too. Opportunity of any kind in any way is staring at us. We just fail to recognize it. It may be in the words you are reading now. It could be in the next hub you visit. It may be in the comments you read or the forum you join in. Who knows, it could just be the hubber you interact with constantly or even the hubber you particularly dislike. All we need to do is acknowledge it and opportunity opens its arms to welcome us.
9. LOVE IS BLIND
My first encounter with this quote was in an autograph book my classmate asked me to fill out. It was her answer to the question "what is love?" I had this terrible image of how love would look like if its blindness were true. "What a pitiful sight!" my innocent mind cried. The image in my mind, kept on changing through the years. The lessons of love and about love tackled in subjects like Religion, English, Social Studies, Philosophy, Anthropology and Political Science revealed a long list of different kinds of love. I was dumb founded. Many types are indeed "blind", but that is another story.
For now, let me simply state that at present I believe love choosesto be blind for it sees without judgment, without condemnation, without prejudice, and without fear. By doing so, the stage is set for all else to experience love in its purest form.
10. ALL GOOD THINGS MUST COME TO AN END
I was dad's favorite, well, at least before the youngest brother came. We were still eight all in all when he took the time to bring me along - just me and him - to unfamiliar territories like a boxing match - ringside at that, to a barber shop where he'd have my hair cut too after he did and my favorite, the co-pilot's seat in the company plane he flies. I simply loved it when he'd let me "fly" the plane standing on the seat to reach the steering wheel and I'd see all the magnificent formations of clouds outlined by shadows cast by the rays of the sun amidst the soothing blue sky. "Flying" was my favorite time with him.
One day as he was flying five executives to Indonesia they encountered a storm. He decided to turn back toward Zambaonga, Philippines when another storm caught them along the way. That was the last information my dad transmitted on the radio. The good times have ended and I was only 11 years old.
Five countries joined the search conducted along the Basilan Island known to be occupied by some terrorists. Not one body was found. Suspiciously only the landing gear of the plane and some personal belongings were surrendered by fishermen. The company stated that since there were no bodies found it was their policy to wait 7 years before they could proclaim everyone in the plane dead.
For seven years we were hoping against hope that they were still alive. On the seventh year we said our goodbyes to an empty grave and all along I kept asking "why is it a must for all good things to end?"
Now I know better. Good things...... last forever.
I do hope you have found this hub useful in your healing journey as it had in mine. May all the love shared in this community shine forth in your hearts. Be blessed.