Who doesn’t love famous quotes? Even if you don’t spend hours each day reading the encyclopedia of inspirational sayings, it’s still very likely that you enjoy browsing a few good sources containing fabulous adages. One good maxim can change your entire outlook on life, and motivate you to develop a new and improved paradigm shift in both your thinking and conduct. However, not all quotes should be regarded as helpful. In fact, some of them could be mentally toxic, and possibly make your life miserable. Here are examples of five famous quotes that could inadvertently do you more harm than good.
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” –Dale Carnegie
Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, is credited as the originator of this famous quote. It means that you should convert a bad experience into something positive and gratifying. However, the harm in this quote is that it applies to only a handful of people who like and can stomach lemonade. It excludes those who are medically allergic to lemonade, and would become very ill if they were to even dip a finger in it. The way that this quote could be corrected is to say instead that, “When life gives you lemons, devise a course of action that will best tackle the problem.” Making lemonade doesn’t work for everybody. Some people might have to throw the lemons away, and cook rice instead.
“Nice guys finish last.” –Leo Durocher
This is one of the many famous sports quotes that you may have heard several times. Its origin is attributed to Leo Durocher, baseball manager of the Brooklyn Dodger. The full quote is “Take a look at them. They’re all nice guys, but they’ll finish last. Nice guys finish last.” Durocher was originally referring to the opposing team in 1939. Today, it insinuates that friendly, kind, and courteous men don’t stand a chance at winning a woman’s affection when competing against jerks and bad boys. However, this phrase is potentially harmful to the” nice guy”, because it suggests that his self-worth rides on his egotistical and playboy attitude towards women. In truth, a guy can be nice and still earn the love and affection of a decent woman. Hence, a better quote would be that, “Nice guys finish after they’ve crossed the finish line like everybody else.” It doesn’t matter where they place. In fact, it doesn’t matter where anyone places.
“Men are born to succeed, not fail.” –Henry David Thoreau
This inspirational quote comes by way of American author, poet, and philosopher Henry David Thoreau. It suggests that we are all born with the natural inclination to become successful; even if we come from humble beginnings. It implies that we are not born to fail, and we shouldn’t think along those lines. Unfortunately, the harm in this famous quote is that it seems to insinuate that success is our birthright and that we are entitled to succeed, because it’s God’s will. It implies that regardless of how we behave and treat others, success is always assured. In truth, success is neither a birthright nor a righteous inheritance. It’s a privilege. It’s a benefit that we receive for our good deeds and intentions. Therefore, a better quote would be, “Our success is determined not by our birth, but by our good deeds and intentions.”
“The love of money is the root of all evil.” –Paul the Apostle
Paul the Apostle (often referred to as the Apostle Paul or Saint Paul) is the influential early Christian missionary who is credited with this famous bible quote. It conveys the message that enjoying money is the gateway to malicious conduct and destruction. However, the problem with this quote is that it suggests that if you love money, you will inevitably commit wicked acts and hurt others. More accurately stated, it’s not our love of money that gets us into trouble. Instead, it’s the unhealthy relationship that we have with money that is responsible. Contrary to the quote, the love of money will often result in charitable giving and personal fulfillment. Therefore, a better way to put this would be to say that, “It’s the subconscious contempt for money that is the root of all evil.”
“They can because they think they can.” -Virgil
Publius Vergilius Maro, the ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period, (known mostly as Virgil) penned this famous Latin quote, which is intended to help us understand that we can accomplish whatever we think we can accomplish. However, the harm with this quote is that it seems to suggest that if you think you can do or have something, you will by default do or have it. This is not quite the case. Just because you think that you can sing like a songbird doesn’t mean that you can. Thinking that you can become a physician, without the required medical training, does not mean that it’ll be possible for you to become one. Therefore, a better quote would be “They can because they possess the skills, preparation, and awareness that will ensure their success.”
“Impossible is a word to be found only in the dictionary of fools.” –Napoleon Hill
American author Napoleon Hill (most noted for his popular book Think and Grow Rich) is the voice behind this famous quote. The idea that it expresses is that it is only fools and naysayers who think of things as being impossible. However, the harm with this quote is that it suggests that it is foolish to think of the impossible. This is not true. There are many things in life that are impossible. It’s impossible to grow younger. It’s impossible to live a long life without food and water. It’s impossible to survive a rattlesnake bite without immediate medical attention. So, a correction would be, “While there are many possibilities in life, there are also many things that are in fact impossible.”
Does this mean that you should start rejecting famous quotes? Absolutely not! There are many wonderful famous quotes that will not only inspire you, but will also improve the quality of your life. However, it’s important to question many of them first before you decide to incorporate them as part of your personal philosophy. So, rethink the meaning of the quote before you adapt it to your life.
Image by Pierluigi Riccio