Life isn’t full of blacks and whites. In fact, much of our existence is in the perpetual grays. Now, that makes our lives a little more difficult. If everything was black and white, our choices would be easy and we could define our decisions with more ease. But the sooner we realize that not all choices are defined for us, the sooner we grow up. Making choices becomes more difficult in the grass and we often use age-old proverbs to justify our decisions and actions. But this is a dangerous territory as well because many of the proverbs were born of specific circumstances and may not be applicable to our situation.

The subjectivity of these proverbs are much clearer when we not the large number of proverbs that directly contradict each other

1. The early bird gets the worm. The second mouse gets the cheese

Does one start preparing precociously as the first proverb states? Or is it better to wait and watch and make calculated decisions as the second proverb recommends? The first proverb highlights the virtues of being quick, spontaneous and impatient to succeed. But the second proverb directly contradicts it by recommending patience, calmness, and reflection. The second proverb warns against the very values that the first proverb celebrates. Both proverbs hold the complete truth in their respective circumstances. Based on whether the active competitiveness of the first or the passive reflectiveness of the second appeals to you: it determines your course of action.

2. The higher you climb, the harder you fall. The sky is the limit

Do you remain greedy for success and always aim for better than your current circumstances in accordance to the second proverb? Or, Should you be wary of the greed for power and be content in knowing that hunger to climb to power brings with it a side of doom? The first proverb may coax you to give up your greedy aspirations by showing you the terrible realities that come with materialistic fame. While the second one would show you the world of possibilities and urge you to shoot for them. Depending on whether you are swayed by the realistic fears of the former or the limitless possibilities of the latter: it determines the direction of your life.

3. The pen is Mightier than the sword. Actions speak louder than words

What should be your preferred medium of expression? The diplomatic word in accordance to the first proverb? Or the active participation in accordance to proverb two? While the first proverb preaches patience and wise diplomacy in solving issues, the second makes a case for a less passive approach. The second saying asks a person to stop talking eloquently about their course of action and instead stand by those words and actually prove their worth. The first upholds the value of words above impulsive, foolish actions. While the second call men out for being cowardly and hiding behind a rhetoric. Whether one is swayed by the wisdom of the first or the action of the second: it determines your attitude with life.

4. All good things come to him who waits. A stitch in time saves nine

Do you wait patiently for what you deserve? Or do you act on your feet to prevent your conditions from worsening? While the first proverbs necessitate that you face adversity with patience and faith that goodness will be restored; The second urges you to work hard on mending the damages by yourself before life worsens. The first proverbs capitalize on faith and belief in a fair universe where karma reigns. While the second stresses on how one has to help themselves and work on your feet to defeat adversity before it worsens. Whether you are more in agreement with the calm faith of the first or the urgent call for action of the second: It determines your response to life.

5. Clothes make the man. You cannot judge a book by its cover

Do you pay importance to external appearances while judging character? Or do you discredit physical appearances for the internal character? The first saying states the importance of appearances and how they speak of a man’s character. A well-organized man would be well presented and conduct himself with decorum. While the second speaks of how physical appearances are not an indication of a human being’s character. A genius could be hidden in a scrawny nerd. Whether you are swayed by physical appearance or pay it no importance: It determines the kind of friends you would make.

6. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Nothing ventured, nothing gained

Do you undertake risks to gain rewards? Or do you play safe to avoid losses? It is a question that has transcended through time. It remains unanswered to date with all opinionated parties divided equally on both. The first statement recommends caution, awareness, and care. It warns about the dangers of reckless behavior. While the second breaths in the passion for victory. It speaks of the sacrifices and gambles to be taken to achieve glory. It beckons you to transcend mediocrity by doing things differently. Whether one is sways by the constraint patience of one or the reckless aspirations of the other: it determines your internal struggle.

7. Seek and ye shall find. Curiosity killed the cat

Are you suppose to always hunger for more and try to learn the secrets of the world? Or are you better off oblivious to the evil that resides on earth? The former reiterates the importance of having a questing mind; Of always wanting to know more and striving to understand the world. The latter warns of the dangers of being overly curious. It cautions against the dangers that befall a noisy soul. Whether you agree with the questing mind or the cautious thinker: It determines your awareness of the world.

8. Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth. Many hands make a lighter load

Do you work single handly to solve your crisis? Or do you work as a team while facing adversity?The first speaks of the effectiveness of independence. It heralds the importance of solving your problems independently instead of aggravating it by entering counter effective view points. While the second speaks of the importance and effectiveness of harmonious teamwork. When many people pitch in, the problem solves more definitively and in an easier manner. Whether one agrees with the importance of self-help or with the effectiveness of team work: it determines our relationship with others.

Thus we can see that these proverbs hardly provide any definite advice. It is all situational and whatever agrees with our own situations. The proverb that helps one, may be harmful to another. Just because an old wise saying says so, doesn’t mean it’s a problem-solving maxim. We should learn to apply our decisions in accordance with our hearts and convictions instead. But no matter what, we should stand by these decisions and see them to completion.

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