false wisdom

False Wisdom You Should Not Teach Your Kids

I have a hard time with cliches. You hear them all the time. Something sounds good so people start saying it over and over. They even become mantras some live by. Normally, we hear them in response to a person’s difficulty or personal pain. They are always shared with good intention and usually by wonderful people. Besides the fact that many of these are mostly used to place an optimistic bow on a difficult situation, the real problem is this: Many are skewed truth masking as wisdom and dangerous.

Imagine holding two strings a mile long in your hand. If one string went straight and the other went only slightly left, they would appear to be on the same track. However, a mile down, they would be far apart. Believing a false premise sets us on the wrong course and causes us to ultimately end up off track. Sometimes dangerously so. The clearest test I have heard for true wisdom is it needs to be logically consistent, correspond to reality, and be relevant to life’s experience. The following commonly heard phrases are false wisdom you should not teach your kids.

“What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.”

Except when it severely weakens you. There are times when we go through the fire and come out on the other side with more maturity, resolve, and wisdom. That is not always the case. This statement has a way of burying unhealed wounds and minimizing painful experiences that need to be flushed out. Sometimes they never fully heal or take a lifetime. Deep hurts can breed unhealthy self-perception, behavior, and relationships. This makes a person weaker, not stronger.

“It’s all good.”

Except when it’s not because not everything is good. The main problem with this one is similar to the last one. It too often glazes over a host of wrongs. The main context I have heard this used is during relational difficulty. Someone utters it to simply move on from conflict. When the hurt caused isn’t well-communicated, it is doomed to be repeated. It’s healthy to forgive, be relationally “good” while still acknowledging that there were things done wrong. Identifying the good and bad will bring growth. Saying it’s all good can hurt the relationship in the long run.

“God never gives you more than you can handle.”

This is a well-meaning bit of encouragement to someone going through a tough time, but it is misquoted Scripture. The verse referenced here speaks specifically to resisting temptation. I see people all over the world confronted with situations and atrocities that are too much for anyone to handle. God may allow it for a number of reasons, but His main desire is to be intimate with us. He wants us to be dependent on Him–like a parent and child. If we could handle everything ourselves, we wouldn’t need Him. I would also argue that when we “handle” it our way, we tend to make a mess.

“If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”

No, you can’t. I will never play in the NBA no matter how hard I work at it. The problem with this saying is it gives a false promise. Applying your mind to something doesn’t mean you can reach any level of success. There are lots of factors that play into it. We all have different gifts, abilities, and talents. This certainly doesn’t mean we discourage our kids from going after lofty goals or trying new things. However, the best thing to do for them is help them identify their strengths. Then teach them how to refine those strengths, work smart and hard, and encourage them without giving them false promises of achievement. A more truthful saying would be: You’ll never accomplish anything with excellence unless you put your mind to it. 

“Money is the root of all evil.”

This is another misquoted Bible verse. It’s missing three important words in the beginning of the sentence: “The love of money is the root of all evil.” There is nothing wrong with money, in general, or being wealthy. Money is used in just as many noble ways as bad. It’s a thing and things are not evil. Attitudes, misplaced love, and actions are evil.

“I’m glad I did (bad thing) because it made me into the person I am today.”

It is true that we can learn important lessons in the midst of doing the wrong thing, but we didn’t have to learn them that way. It subtly glorifies bad behavior and the pain it causes. If we communicate the above, we are modeling to our kids that wrongs will eventually make a right. If you are a person worthy enough for your kids to emulate, it is more in spite of your past wrongs, not because of them.

Sound Off

What false wisdom have you heard lately?

BJ Foster

BJ Foster is the Director of Content Creation for All Pro Dad and a married father of two.

  • Jeff Henderson

    If you put your mind to it you can accomplish anything that is right by God and is right for you. Yes, you have to work with your gift set, but the temptation is to forget that the faith of a mustard seed will move mountains and uproot trees. There is a lot of power and ability and realized dreams that can be shot down if we don’t encourage seemingly impossible feats. The greatest example is to extend yourself and go for your own dreams so that your kids see that something hard is possible.

    As far as doing bad things, that is never something to be glad for, but having bad things happen is something to be glad for. We all come out of adversity and can learn from it and grow or accept it as a bad thing that destroys. Positive people focus on the hard circumstances and consequences rather than any bad behavior. The thing to be glad for in that case is that the attitude is realized, captured in the imagination, and given to a spirit of turning it around so that the natural behavior is the exact opposite and the mistake is never repeated.

  • Average Black Man

    Ehhh dont really agree with half of these

  • NIkkiTyler139

    This is so, so, so good. I work with adolescents (many of them without a faith) and it is saddening to see their misconceptions of Christ and His followers due to quotes like these. Praying for the truth of God to surpass everything we think we know. 🙂

    • BJ_Foster

      As someone who worked with adolescents for years I really appreciate all you do. Keep up the good work Nikki!

  • Doug Keating

    I really like this post. You are absolutely correct that there is a ton of bad advice that we hear on a regular basis. I am a divorced dad and don’t get to spend much time with my sons, so I created a personal blog as a way to pass along what little wisdom I possess to them. I made it available to the public in case others find benefits from it.
    Here is a link to the blog: http://www.lettertosons.com/

    • BJ_Foster

      Good for you Doug! Your children will really appreciate that in the future if they don’t already.

  • Brian Kube

    Thanks for sharing

    • BJ_Foster

      You’re welcome Brian!

  • Tom


    • BJ_Foster

      Thanks Tom!

  • Christian Sanich

    Good article. Thanks for saying these things. Those false wisdoms are prevalent and drive me nuts.

    • BJ_Foster

      Thanks Christian! Me too.

  • Scott Smyth

    Here’s another one: “It was God’s will that (this bad thing) happened.” It’s false wisdom because it’s presumptuous and impossible to know unless you are a prophet with a direct hotline to God. Maybe in a particular case the person saying it is right, but how do you know? There are bad things that happen that are not God’s will. God allowing something doesn’t mean it’s His will. (e.g. Matt 19:8) And sometimes for a greater purpose, it is His will that bad things happen. With more than one possible reason, who are we to say that we know which one is right? Besides the statement just not necessarily being true, it doesn’t have the effect that well-meaning people who say it intend. They mean it to be a comforting thought. “It was God’s will the X died.” Great. I feel lots better now. God killed my mother/father/wife/husband/son/daughter. Thanks for the comforting thought.

    • BJ_Foster

      Good point Scott!

  • Aaron Proulx

    This is one of the better plays of the day. I really appreciate the deconstruction of cliches. Cliches are inherently oversimplified. They are like rules of thumb. Further analysis usually establishes that the cliche is inaccurate.

    • BJ_Foster

      Well said. Thanks Aaron!

  • Paul

    Thank you for this article/post. If I may add a thought: another piece of well-intended, false wisdom that I received when growing up was the cliche: “God helps those who help themselves.” Along the same lines as “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything”, this cliche goes even further in a dangerous direction suggesting that our will should be in the driver’s seat, and that God adds the muscle to make our will reality. In summary, this cliche suggests that God is our personal, all-powerful assistant, ready to act on our will or whatever we put our mind to. In truth, God guides us and directs our lives using our life choices and those of others to accomplish His will – drawing us into a personal relationship with Him. Some people are quick to cite Jesus in Matt 19:26, “…with God all things are possible”. This is a true statement, God is all-powerful. However, Jesus was actually talking about salvation and the verse is often misquoted to imply the God will make anything we want come true. In the full context of Matt 19:13-26 we see God’s will in action as Jesus pursues the goal of personal intimacy with children and adults when in these scenarios He says “come to me” and “follow me.” In that personal relationship with God He molds our wills to His own, not vice versa. Therefore, it makes sense that, for ourselves and as an example to our children, we humble ourselves by putting down our will, running to Jesus in scripture and prayer to seek the Father’s will in our lives, applying the true wisdom of scripture to our life decisions, and praying daily for God to provide a “lamp for [our] feet, a light on [our] path.”

    • BJ_Foster

      Right on Paul! I didn’t even think of that one.

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