Aphorisms Of The Fathers
(And The Mothers)

Dateline: 21 September 2015

The grandfathers and  the grandmothers too.
(photo link)

I have been blogging regularly for a couple of weeks and it has been fun, but I'm going to have to take a break. While I'm away, I invite readers of this blog to contribute (via the comments section below) to a little idea that has come to my mind (and gone from my mind) several times over the years.....

I was prompted to start thinking about this idea again last month after writing my blog post titled, Here's Why Modern Banking Is An Evil System Of Economic Oppression. It wasn't anything I wrote that revived the little idea, but part of a comment from David Smith, whose comments I always find to be thoughtful and insightful. In particular, David stated...

"My depression era father, growing up here in rural TN said that one of the family mottoes was "Take care of what you need, and then maybe you can have some of what you want."

Family mottoes? That phrase, and the words of David's father, reminded me of a book I once thought I should write. The book would be titled, Aphorisms of the Fathers

An aphorism is a bit of wisdom expressed in a few words. A well known example of an aphorism comes from the movie, Forest Gump, when Forest's Mama tells him, "Stupid is as stupid does."

Aphorisms of the Fathers would be a book that served to equip fathers (and grandfathers) with a selection of sage aphorisms. Conscientious fathers would select and deliberately adopt a few key aphorisms to pass on to their children, through the years, whenever the opportunity for a sage aphorism presented itself.

Such aphorisms, oft and appropriately repeated, would become part of a family's lore or tradition. And the grown children who had heard them over the years would one day say, "My father always used to say..."

More importantly, this fatherly wisdom would be absorbed by the children. 

There are some fathers who are naturally inclined to have a good supply of aphorisms for their children. Perhaps that's because their own fathers were full of wise sayings. But I'm pretty sure that a lot of boys did not grow up hearing a lot of wise fatherly sayings. I say that because I don't recall hearing any myself.

With that thought in mind, I once asked a room of co-workers (several men) if they recalled any words of wisdom that their father or mother always used to say. There was silence. Then one guy said, "Yeah, my father always used to say..." and he repeated some perverse saying with cuss words in it. I forgot exactly what he said, but everyone laughed. I was kind of shocked. It was sad.

Anyway, after Aphorisms of the Fathers was published and became a best seller, I would, of course, then come out with Aphorisms of the Mothers. The was my plan.

But I have way too many plans and, alas, my Aphorisms of the Fathers project will never be. The same goes for two other books I planned to write (and actually started writing): Work is Not a Four Letter Word, and The Father & Son Spud Gun Fun Manual

Nevertheless, I still think the concept of adopting and using a selection of wise sayings should be an important part of wise fatherhood (and motherhood). So it is that this blog post will serve to take the place of the book I will never write. And this is where you, my dear readers, are needed...

During my absence from blogging (a week, or so) I invite you to provide one or more short, wise sayings that you think a mother or father might commit to memory with the intention of passing them on to their children whenever the situation was right.

If your own mother or father (or another family member) "always used to say" something that you remember, and that would be considered an aphorism, that would be especially good (no cuss words, please). But any simple, wise saying that you have otherwise heard or read, and think is particularly good, is also welcome.

Biblical words of wisdom may certainly be included. The book of Proverbs is full of aphorisms, and it was actually written by a father (Solomon) to give wisdom to his son.

Which brings to mind, Proverbs 16:18: Pride cometh before a fall. I distinctly recall my mother telling me that once. And it was a prophetic aphorism.

Please post your Aphorisms of the Fathers (And The Mothers) in the comments section below. The more, the better. If the overall participation is good, I will put a link to this post on my sidebar, where new readers will be more likely to read it and learn from it.

Thank you.


Matthew said...

"Never hurry unless you have a lot of time!"

My Grampa went to be with the Lord this past winter after a tractor accident at age 82, and that is one of his sayings that I try to remember.

Since he always kept plenty busy, with never enough time for the tasks to be accomplished--esespecially before he retired (in addition to working full time he also farmed a hundred acres and started a Christian campground complete with a small man-made lake) I've heard he most often quoted that to himself after something went awry! Its amazing how often I find following that little admonition would have saved so much time and effort in the long run!

Eric said...

"A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine." I always knew when I was going to hear this from my mother and I always knew she was right...

SharonR said...

That's a good one, Eric!
Here are a few I recall, none too unique:
"Pretty is as pretty does"
"The hurrier I go, the behinder I get" (A good one to follow Matthew's - you need a lot of time if you're going to hurry. You can get so behind doing that.)
"The man worth while is the man who can smile when everything else goes wrong" (Actually, this is similar to a line in one of Edgar A. Guest's poems. It seemed to be foundational of my dad.)
I don't recall Mother and Daddy standing around quoting any one particular Bible verse, but I do know we spent a lot of time in it daily in family devotionals and in seeing especially my dad living it.
So, these are the top three that I best remember.

Anonymous said...

Several new to me, but very good ones I've heard recently:

"If someone shows you who they are, you better believe them."

"Bitterness is a poison that kills you while you're waiting for the other person to die."

Anonymous said...

I love this post. Here's one from Grandma Doris Jones to her granddaughter (me): "Beauty is only skin deep, ugly is to the bone, beauty soon fades away, but ugly holds its own."


Melonie said...

My mom always said (still does) "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." Usually followed by quoting my Nana, who used the phrase "I can't abide a liar."

She also uses "Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get me." People write it off as a joke but she has a great point in today's crazy goings-on. Growing up overseas, we did deal with security concerns and she taught me to be very aware of my surroundings - people these days chalk it up to being a "mama bear" but it worked.

Anonymous said...

"Never despise a task,because you're always either creating something or making something better." I believe this is a quote from a book by Grace Livingston Hill. I usually just shorten it to "never despise a task" and I have to use it on myself pretty frequently. -Evelyn, in Colorado

Mesquite said...

Never shave with goose pimples

magnoliasntea said...

My siblings and I were taught, "One person's rights end where the rights of others begin." This was repeated especially & emphatically on Sunday afternoon drives and pertained to our personal spaces in the backseat of the car but works well in all types of social situations.

Mrs. G said...

My Mom (she & my Dad were born pre-Depression & just a year or so into it) *always* said "There's always money for what you want." Usually this was in response to somebody wasting money and then crying poor. That phrase is so true and fits a multitude of situations. My husband & I use it in response to the "how can you afford so many children?!?" This is what we want and so we economize elsewhere to afford the eternal blessings of children.

Mrs. G said...

My Mother's marital advice: You don't jump ship just because the waves get a little high.

And hello to David Smith from another rural Tennessean! :)

Mrs. G said...

After reading this aloud to the family at lunch we wanted to submit a few more.

My husband's parents said, You run with skunks you smell like skunks.

And mine said, You lay down with dogs you get up with fleas.

wildbillb said...

i grew up with the family motto "the race goeth not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but to he who endures to the end."

my children are growing up with the motto "i can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."

great project!

Anonymous said...

When faced with a person who has left a marriage/relationship or a good job or who has otherwise quit something because it became hard to do, my 80 year old mother-in-law often reminds us: The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence....but it needs to be mowed too!

Anonymous said...

My dad used to say, "Nothing good happens after midnight." It was repeated to me and my brother in support of our teenage curfew.


Mesquite said...

My grandfather always said to resemble the wise old owl. Two ears, two eyes, little mouth. I'm still trying to learn that one....

Mesquite said...

Birds of a feather, flock together.

Susan Humeston said...

My mom would say, "If you can't say something nice, don't say something at all." Great for people who love to gossip. Another one, which I don't believe is true, but children believe it at first, "If you look like that, your face will freeze that way". I suppose it could be partially true in that a facial expression that is constant becomes etched in the lines of the face.

My father also used to say- and I love this because it is funny and not wise, "I'm busier than a red a$$ed bee." I hope I didn't shock anyone, but I find that funny in that I can picture this angry little bee just buzzing and buzzing.

Unknown said...

Do under others as you would have them do unto you.

Unknown said...

Do under others as you would have them do unto you.

Naomi Shubert said...

My mother used to say the following which have stuck in my mind:

"The Devil is always in a hurry"

"Prayer changes things"

"There will be tears before bedtime" (a favorite of hers when we were horse-playing as children)

"Cleanliness is next to Godliness" and

"Don't throw your pearls before swine"

Kathy said...

From my mom "You are what you eat."

Kathy said...

One more from my mom when I was a new driver (and probably the rest of us seven as they also drove) "Better to get there late than not at all."

milton f said...

Never fry bacon naked.

Tucanae Services said...

My Father's:

"Success in Life begins by thinking of the Other Guy."

My Mother's:

"If they don't find you handsome they better find you handy. (from red-green show)
If they don't find you pretty they better find you practical." (Dear Mum)

Some of my own:

"Help is but an arms length away."

"Nobody knows it all and I know that for certain."

"At 10 your children adore you. At 13 your children despise you. At 17 they are amazed that you can feed yourself. At 21 they revere you. The secret to parenting is having them write their own checks as early as possible."

That is all.

Anonymous said...

My friend a retired game warden who passed away at 105 used to say "look forward don't look back"

My old and respected boss once told me he "would rather have a guy he had to rein in than one he had to start up every day"

I picked up another one from where, I am not quite sure, that goes "one door closes and another opens"

If you're not a liberal when your young you don't have a heart, If your not a conservative when you're older you don't have a brain.

Mike Snow

Steven Martin said...

I started a document a year or so back for my two grandsons called "Pap's Tips". I plan to continue to add to it going forward. A few they have come to expect are ... Find a way or make one. Get it where its going. See the work. We are here to serve the world, the world is not here to serve you" Just a few of dozens!

Anonymous said...

My grandfather and father, when hearing gossip or something just plain foolish, always said, "when I hear nothing I say nothing."

Anonymous said...

My dear grandmother used to say "count your blessings". She didn't only say it though, she taught me how to do it. It means the difference between living a grateful, satisfied life and a miserable, wanting, feel sorry for yourself life. It really works too. This is in my own opinion of course.

magnoliasntea said...

Just remembered this one, and it's my all-time favorite:

It's better to be silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.

Unknown said...

I always tell me kids when the get to concerned with what others think or say

Tend your own garden

ELittle said...

Here is one that my Dad would always say as we were beginning a task that required you to get in the right position to perform said task, "damn it boy, get your a$$ behind you"!

SharonR said...

O dear, I hope the relatives of Ella Wheeler Wilcox will forgive me. The quote I credited to poet Edgar A. Guest should have been credited to Mrs. Wilcox. I like them both. Go here to read it all: http://www.ellawheelerwilcox.org/poems/pworthwh.htm

Mel said...

My father always says "we aren't punished for our sins, we are punished by our sins". I always say "people only seem normal until you really get to know them".

Lisa said...

My Grandmother, my Mom's mother used to say to her, which my Mom said to us many times,"If you don't listen then you're going to have to feel". Oh so true and Amen to that!

Anonymous said...

"You can't steer a parked car"

Anonymous said...

I find myself saying frequently:

"We don't always get what we want when we want it, but we always get what we need exactly when we need it."

Dawn said...

My grandmother would always say "Do the best you can with what you have."

Marilyn in SW MO said...

Yes, this is a super good idea. Two that come to mind are "Can’t judge a book by its cover," which my mom always said. My dad was famous for being thrifty so a favorite of his was, "always save for a rainy day; it is bound to come!"

Unknown said...

My husband had a few:

A penny saved is a penny earned

Loose lips sink ships

The tongue is sharper than a two edged sword

Neither a borrower or a lender be

I could only contribute:

Monkey see, monkey do

Nick L. said...

Thanks Eric I had forgotten that one.
Love all the sayings I will keep coming back to check.

When faced with a large task: "It's like eating an elephant, just take it one bite at a time".

When I do a job that I've never done before and afterwards find I could have done it much easier or faster I usually say "Well I payed the stupid fee on that one", which brings me to a saying I like to use "It's OK to pay the stupid fee, as long as you learn something".

Nick L

Jack Perry said...

If you want breakfast in bed, sleep in the kitchen.

Seth P said...

If you find yourself upset with someone, first walk a mile in their shoes. Then when you calm down you will be a mile away....and have their shoes.

Stewart said...

"The best way to turn out average is to do things the same way everybody else does "

If you truly want a "better" marriage, or family, or work ethic, or reputation, or spiritual walk, etc, than the average American, you will have to make a conscious decision to do things differently from most. Don't be surprised if you do things the same way as all your neighbors and coworkers and end up with the same results.

September 22, 2015

Pamela said...

Mr. Kimball,

Our lives have forever been changed after coming across your blog years ago. At that time we needed to build a chicken plucker, and learn how.to butcher.chickens. My husband is planning on building a whizbang scalder before our next butchering session. This past weekend we butchered 50 chickens with another family. Every adult and child had a job. This leads me to the aphorism I would like to share. One that we had printed on t-shirts for Christmas one year.

The family that butchers chickens together; stays together.

Thanks so much for all the wisdom that you share.

Anonymous said...

Ok, this is going the wrong way, but I still have the sign hanging on my refrigerator....the second grade at our elementary school always had a project where the students had to come up with a saying.....my unflappable daughter, with her profoundly straightforward thinking, (now 25 years old) stated,

"If things aren't easy, just do it the hard way."

From the mouths of babes.....

Anonymous said...

"Play stupid games win stupid prizes"
"Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you to their level and beat you with experience." "Never argue with an idiot, someone watching may not be able to tell the difference"

Unknown said...

Readiness is a proven fact only when the need for it is over.

Be sure your sin will find you out.

CLL said...

This is great! I'm writing many of these in my commonplace book.

Friends of ours have six boys. Their family motto is "if you're gonna be stupid, you'd better be tough."

The one I've said the most (which I learned years later was a variation of a saying by John Adams), "Our job is to obey. The results belong to God."

Maggie C said...

"Waste not, want not." I can hear my mother every time I repeat this.

Anonymous said...

My father has a number of useful aphorisms I've heard and taken to heart over the years. Here are some of my favorites:

"Make hay while the sun shines."

"Make due or do without."

"I'm going to keep looking dumber to you until your about 25, then we can talk."

"This is not a democracy."

"I find the harder I work the luckier I get."

"Front-end load." re: doing the work first and reaping the benefit later.

"I've never had nice cars, a boat or cottage. My investment is in my children."

"Be still and know that I am God." quoted to us when going through tempestuous times.

Mesquite said...

Always acknowledge the elephant in the room.

Mesquite said...

And from my beloved mother...pretty women are a dime a dozen, kindness counts. Pretty is as pretty does..

Mesquite said...

I will give you a Yankee dime. Usually said in the South. (a kiss)

Matt B said...

I never heard any from my parents, but I often tell my kids "Can't never could do nothing". Usually after a complaint of "I cant" when told to do something simple like put their shoes on or the such.

Matt B said...

Oh, I've also used one that I learned from this blog a few years ago. "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without"

Anonymous said...

"Many hands make light work"

Mike said...

To my kids when they don't believe me and later find out I'm correct. "If I tell you a chicken dips snuff, you better look under his wing for a box." Took them awhile to understand, now I get the eye roll and Oh Dad!

Anonymous said...

Trying to teach my sister and I the
art of being frugal, my wise Grandma
would say "A good wife doesn't throw
out the backdoor what her hard working
husband brings in the front door."
Kim in Montana

Unknown said...

The only thing I remember my father telling me was that my "mouth was going to get me in trouble". He was right. It did.
My mother on the other hand has/had lots.
"Two wrongs don't make a right."
"Don't stoop to their level."
"When someone gains a freedom, someone else loses one."
"Turn the other cheek."
"Do it right the first time."
My father did teach me much by example though....if something doesn't work, take it apart, clean it and put it back together.
My great grandmother taught me about reusing items. She washed tinfoil, plastic bags and wrap and also paper towels. I do all but the paper towels. I am moving away from using them though.

Anonymous said...

Spend THIS week's paycheck NEXT week, not Next week's paycheck THIS week!

And my personal favorite: It's good to be smart, but it's smart to be good.

Anonymous said...

Those that got, got to lose, those that don't, can't.

Anonymous said...

My grandmother always said, "Everything happens for a reason."

It's brought me a lot of peace during turbulent times while I wait for the wisdom of God to become clear in my heart.

Nick L said...

From my paternal Grandma while trying to learn how to cook like she could:

"It can't be bad if you have good ingredients".

Of course our cooking was never as good as hers. She truly made it with love, we made ours with frustration and ineptitude, but we had a good time. :)

From my maternal Grandma:

"Your never too poor to have manners"

I never said that much until recently.

Lyle Stout said...

Life rarely gives you a chance to save $10,000, but it gives you 10,000 chances to save a buck.

Mesquite said...

Be careful of whom you have as a friend. They will either get you in trouble, or keep you out of it.

Carol said...

My dear departed Father-in-law would tell my husband (with a twinkle in his eye) "You can rest when you're dead."

Anonymous said...

When trying to carry too much and therfore creating a danger of dropping, spilling, breaking or any combination thereof, my mother would say, "Don't try to carry a lazy man's load."

Any job doing is worth doing right.
Don't count your chickens before they hatch.

Debbie K

Anonymous said...


Came to this party late and have read all comments. My dad was born before WW I and was a carpenter/contractor close to forever. He always told me, Your mistakes are not too important, but learn how to fix them well.

He also often told me, Learn to do your work well so you don't have to do it twice.

I also often heard, Never hurts you what you know.

Also: Be smart, a lot of educated men are stupid.


RonC said...

When my wife is telling one of our kids not to do something because it is going to hurt, I just say, "Oh, don't worry about that dear, they'll only do it once." Works best if the kid is in earshot too.

Anonymous said...

My dad had a few saying, funny but not that helpful, like, If I wanted it to break, it wouldn't. '
One I remember but don't know were it came from, You can sometimes trust a thief, but you can never trust a liar.

Anonymous said...

My Grandfather always quoted:

As a rule, man is a fool,
When it's hot, he wants it cool;
When it's cool, he wants it hot,
Always wanting what is not.


Mrs. G said...

I just said this one today so I thought I'd submit it.
Whenever our children or anybody starts the "I deserve" bit I always reply that you don't want what you deserve and it you ever got it I guarantee that you wouldn't like. This is from a purely Christian standpoint that we deserve to go to hell.

And if they want to talk about what other people deserve I always respond with;
We all want mercy for ourselves and justice for everybody else.

And on a completely different subject my Dad would say about people's work ethic that they're as worthless as teats on a boar hog. My brother was often on the receiving end of that one. :)

Anonymous said...

My father in law said his mother always said a bad housewife can throw out the back door more food with a spoon than her husband can tote in the front door with a wheelbarrow ~ miss georgia

ELittle said...

Growing up around here I heard this one quite often, "That woman is as ugly as a stone post"! Not a very Christian thing to say,but say it they did!

Anonymous said...

My mother, left a widow with four children under ten, and another on the way, did everything she could to keep food on the table and clothes on our backs, always told her girls,"A lady can do anything... as long as she does it like a lady." As a dyed in the wool southener, her favorite motto was, "Be pretty if you can, be clever if you must, but be gracious if it kills you."

Anonymous said...

My mom often reminded me and my temper "vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord" - still have that one in the back of my mind to this day when dealing with difficult folks.

Anonymous said...

My mom's favorite has always been (and still is) "A place for everything and everything in its place."


Anonymous said...

You can pick your friends,
and you can pick your nose,
but you can't pick your friend's nose!

Anonymous said...

there's always time to do it right the first time.
do not despise the day of small things
why put off till tomorrow what you can do today.
only one chance.
idle hands are the devil's playthings.
his looks are bait for his trap.
hustle while you wait.

the sayings convey more than the words.
from, auntie kathy

Anonymous said...

Great bits of wisdom. My father taught me:
"Never beg unless you have a family to feed."
"No matter what, family comes first."

chipmunk said...

My parents often commented on "champagne tastes on a beer budget" and that growing old is not for sissies. Mom admonished me to take care of myself so I could take care of my family.

Anonymous said...

"Solvitur Ambulando (latin for 'it is solved by walking', for whenever you have a problem)

"De gustibus non est disputandum" (Latin for 'there is no dispute about tastes', which meant- stop pressing your tastes onto others.)

"You can't weigh 250 and be a jockey" (which meant- select vocations suitable to your talents)

"trust the Lord and do your best" (I hope that one is self-evident!)

Dave Britton said...

My Grandpa Helmreich always used to say"Honesty is the best policy". Boy I miss him!

Frank and Fern said...

Frank has always said, "Postpone gratification for long term gains." Living by this motto has served us well for many, many years.


Mrs. G said...

I thought of this post today when we were working in the garden. It's getting chilly here and nobody was really motivated, I reminded the children that "the heat's in the tools." So I thought I'd add it if it's not too late.

Unknown said...

My father would often say, "Offer It Up" when we talked about not getting something that we really wanted, or were disappointed about something. The greatest impact on my life from my father was, that I saw him many days, and nights, kneeling beside his bed praying. He never knew that I was there, but I saw him often, and it humbled my heart so much. He was a light to his children in ways I have never seen in anyone else. Bless, Sheila

Anonymous said...

Whenever I complained about something not being fair my Dad would quip: "There ain't no fair in the world." It was not a statement of despair or giving up, but a kind of call to deal with things the way they were rather than how I wished they would be.

Anonymous said...

My dad would say:
Walk when people run and when they run, you walk. He was referring to the stock market and did well when others weren't. But this is so appropriate for today!
Also he would say, "Pick one thing and do it well."

My mom would say:
An idle mind is the devil's playground

Unknown said...

Here's one that was often said by my father: Don't work, don't eat. Definitely taught me that he was serious. Taught me how to work hard.

phian said...

When my grandfather died, his last entry in his diary was this

" Politeness costs nothing, it would be worth nothing if it did."

This has been a very true statement for me