Whether one uses cliché, adage, proverb or platitude, the meaning is virtually the same. These are all overused, trite and stereotyped expressions of experiences or observations, often uttered as if they were original or inventive. They all seem to start with a commonplace truth and sometimes range from doubtful verity to almost universal acceptance. They are so often used that people don’t usually examine them enough. We all become Captain Obvious. For example, “Practice makes perfect.” Somewhat true unless one practices the same mistakes over and over. “The best offense is a good defense,” makes sense, but so does the opposite. Sometimes wise statements nearly contradict each other, as in, “He who hesitates is lost.” VS “Look before you leap.”
Sometimes it is almost imperative to repeat a cliché as when a teacher asks students to, “Be sure you put your name on your assignment.” Almost invariably 2 or 3 students don’t get the memo. Solomon must have had a similar situation while writing Proverbs. They were short truths about human behavior and often described the consequences of certain actions and traits. Wisdom and several other traits seem to be repeated often. Peter certainly felt it was his duty to “…remind you of these things even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth… I think it is right to refresh your memory…” (2 Pe 1: 12-13)
Jesus included many expressions in his sermons that have earned their way into today’s vernacular. “…do to others what you would have them do to you…” (Mt 7: 12) Even though it is called the Golden Rule, lots of people treat it as a cliché and basically ignore it. Many of Jesus’ teachings were in the form of commands. “Do not judge or you too will be judged…” (Mt 7:1) Many were revolutionary and paradoxical. “…love your enemies and pray for them who persecute you…” (Mt 5: 44) “…It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20: 35) “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” (Mt 16: 25) These and many other sayings of Jesus might seem overused and trite and simplified or even ridiculous to non-believers. However, to true believers they still resonate and grow in relevance and comfort everyday of our lives.