To Be or Not To Be, and Other Meaningless(ful) Sayings

August 29, 2010

Most people recognize the famous quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but I wonder how most people really feel about this quote. Is it meaningful, in fact profound, or is it so deep that it becomes meaningless? That is my question.

I’m sure you are familiar with similar sayings. You’ve heard them uttered by your mom, your boss, or maybe even your best friend. A few of my (least) favorites:

  • I don’t know what I don’t know.
  • I don’t know what okay looks like, but it’s going to be okay (borrowed from a friend).
  • It is what it is.
  • To be undecided is to be decided.

I am particularly interested in the last one: to be undecided is to be decided. I got this one from a t-shirt I owned as a child, but it came creeping back into my memory when my pastor used a similar saying in his sermon on indecision recently. It made me think of my own battle with indecision.

 I used to be a good decision maker. I may not have always made the best decisions – I was once young and dumb after all – but I was fully capable of making decisions of all magnitudes. What to wear? Not a problem. Where to eat? Such a cinch. What to major in? Well, maybe I was never so hot at decisions after all.

 I did, however, become a leader in many organizations in college and many cliques in the workplace (joke!), so I know that I was and am fully capable of making decisions…but after several years of bad decisions and constant (and intentional) intimidation from others, I began to feel rendered incapable.

Little by little, I am putting myself in charge of decisions and holding myself responsible for the outcomes. As scary as it is to think of one of my decisions disappointing my husband or causing me hardship, it is even scarier to think of myself as a helpless follower.

 So are the sayings meaningful? Or meaningless? Most days, the saying, “to be undecided is to be decided” would mean very little to me, but faced with a seriously suffocating situation, it became very meaningful. I would imagine Hamlet felt the same.

Reference:  Shakespeare, William. “The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.” The Riverside Shakespeare. Eds. Herschel Baker, Anne Barton, Frank Kermode, Harry Levin, Hallett Smith, and Marie Edel. 2nd ed. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997. 1189-1234. Print.


Word of the Week:  Haughty

Word to the Wise:  “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”  Proverbs 16:18


Disclaimer: The author of this blog does not support cliques…especially ones that she is not a part of. 


One Response to “To Be or Not To Be, and Other Meaningless(ful) Sayings”

  1. Trinidee Says:

    Thanks so much for the interesting read on meaningless(ful) sayings. I claim to dislike cliches, yet I find myself spitting them out on a weekly basis. I’m such a hypocrite. With that said, let me just comment on a couple of the sayings you listed as examples.

    In my interpretation, the saying “to be undecided is to be decided” is an infinite loop. It is a decision that will never be made. It is a mockery of individuals or situations who are undecided. The only meaning I can read into that is a reminder to avoid indecision. At least…I think that is the meaning. I can’t really decide. Gah!

    Typically, sayings are intended to bring one a certain degree of comfort. Interesting that the four examples you gave do not achieve that. Specifically, “I don’t know what okay looks like, but it’s going to be okay.” Now there’s a phrase that leaves me scratching my head. What sort of idiot would say such a thing? Obviously, it’s probably delivered to someone who is at a crossroad. Is that person at the crossroad really supposed to glean insight and a sense of security from an “okay” future when the blathering moron spitting that one out won’t even take a stab at guessing what “okay” will look like? It’s completely understandable why you would list that as not a favorite. I definitely can appreciate the reference.

    Regardless, meaningless(ful) sayings will continue to be a part of our lives. But at the end of the day, I must fall back on the cliche that I do cling to and regularly say. It never brings comfort and probably does not have great meaning, but it delivers utter truth—>It is what it is.

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