And I Quote…
By Natalie Lance
If you’re into social networking these days, no doubt you’ve been bombarded with jokes and happy little inspirational quotes. Quotes have become ingrained in our memory; we don’t even know where they come from or how we know them, but we preach them like the gospel. Before you sigh affectionately and click “share,” why not take the time to ponder what ideal that you are perpetuating? Read it again and ask yourself, “Is this really what I believe?”
A group of cats touting the benefits of group hugs has gotten 4,115 shares. Even a digitally produced rainbow with a sappy line about life’s ups and downs is well into the hundreds (And here I consider myself popular when my status has more than three likes). I’d say that’s a lot of mindless clicking. That clever quote may roll off of your tongue nicely, and certainly the waterfall, bunny or cartoon accompanying it is sure to draw a smile from at least a few friends, but lately it seems that the overflow of inspiration out there is leaving the rest of us bit … well, uninspired.
In fact, some of this anonymous wisdom is not at all true or even helpful. Think quotes are forgettable and harmless? In this world of post-it note romances and parenting-via-text, those charming little tidbits, like Soul-Searching for Dummies, have taken the place of ethics so maybe we should pay attention to the message we’re spreading.
Look at the damage done to my own psyche by a quote loosely thrown about, most often entirely without framing perspective, warping my personal rights and probably claiming countless other victims; “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” That was on a mug my mother had when I was a little girl. I’d heard it a dozen times in separate circumstances before I learned that it was taken from the movie Love Story. I did not understand that it was an expansion on bible counsel outlining the definition of unconditional love — that which does not allow for judgments or grudges when one is giving their all. The transgression is that most of the love we experience as mortal humans is not unconditional, but that fact does not render it worthless. Conditional love simply recognizes its own protective boundaries. Realistically, we tend to look for a “right” to the wrongs done to us, and an apology can be the bandage that protects the wound from infection as it heals. That’s not the message I got, though. What I heard was that expecting an apology was like waiting for the repayment of a loan that you knew the person could not afford to pay back, demanding and unjust. I washed away many of these ‘debts’ without before realizing that love, in fact, means owning up to your own mistakes and making a conscious and consistent effort to be a better person. Out of its context, this particular quote can be devastating to one’s subconscious view.
Another shining faux-pearl of wisdom is that old adage “Something is better than nothing.” I honestly don’t know the origin of this one, though I did some research that related it to similar proverbs from various cultures. There may be situations were something is indeed better than nothing – it would be better to have some food in your cupboards that you didn’t care for than no food at all. A sweater would not warm you as well as a coat, but it’s better than nothing on your bare arms. However, this is not a general principle to be applied as a broad spectrum life philosophy. Then it becomes a myth that keeps people in unhappy situations. A husband who beats you is most certainly not better than no husband at all. Beyond that, this belief can evolve into apathy because it assumes that “something” and “nothing” as the only two available options. For instance, I overhead a young clerk reference this bit of faulty logic in an excuse to forego college, “Yeah, well I don’t care. This job sucks, but it’s better than nothing.” There you go! Why try for “everything” if you think it unattainable or don’t believe it exists at all? You can just take your consolation prize and be satisfied with it.
We need to take our stand! Which quotes are actually worth sharing? Which messages represent our true beliefs and will accurately pass on that which we want to instill in others? Which philosophies will affect our future generations in a positive way? My rule of thumb is, if I can’t explain why this inspirational message is of particular value, it probably isn’t.
Now … this column will be posted to my newsfeed, so make sure you share it. Do you need me to add a waterfall?
Natalie Lance enjoys volunteering at the Mansfield Playhouse. She is a mother of three and a member of the Mid-Ohio Writer’s Organization.