Posted in From soup to nuts

5 unhelpful expressions that should ride into the sunset

artworks-000035838294-00naux-t200x200O.K., I admit it: I spend too much time reading what other people have to say online, usually in responses on comment threads. One lesson I’ve learned is that communication is not just what the transmitter thinks he or she means but what the receiver interprets them to say. With that in mind, here are 5 unhelpful expressions that – like the cowboy at the end of a Western – need to ride into the proverbial sunset:

1) “Let’s just love on our kids.” – In Disney’s “Angels in the Outfield,” one memorable line from radio announcer, Ranch Wilder, is: “Less is more.” When it comes to the sentimental saying, “Let’s just love on our kids” or some variation thereof, Ranch’s “less is more” dictum comes to mind. How about “Let’s just love our kids?” “Loving on” sounds creepy.

2) “It’s all good.” – Context is everything. Usually people are trying to re-assure the other person that something they think they’ve done wrong is not world-ending. But is “It’s all good” merely a polite “cut to the chase” reply, a way of signaling that I don’t have time for this conversation? And by the way, it’s not always all good. Optimist that I am, sometimes it’s just all bad.

3) “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” –  Only reluctantly does this one make my list, since I’ve used it plenty. Though the phrase itself doesn’t appear in Scripture, the idea does, modeled by Jesus’ interaction with the woman caught in adultery  (John 8:1-11). Yet what people often hear in this well-intended line is not love but condescension, not Christlikeness but “holier than thou-ness.” Comedian Mark Lowry had the best come-back:

“Love the sinner, hate the sin? How about: Love the sinner, hate your own sin! I don’t have time to hate your sin. There are too many of you! Hating my sin is a full-time job. How about you hate your sin, I’ll hate my sin and let’s just love each other!”

Mark Lowry
Mark Lowry

4) “Dude” – You know the schtick: “Hey dude, what’s up?” Can we just drive a stake through the heart of this monster? It’s a perfect example of the American (yes, I’m American) tendency to take a bulldozer to all social distinctions, to drag down to our level persons of dignity who merit respect. This faux egalitarianism comes across as juvenile and in many places in the world is about as welcome as a horsefly at a picnic. Call me old-fashioned, but I’d put a “sir” in place of every “dude” and I’d devise a way to say “vous” in English. (See your old high school French 1 notebook for more information).

5) “If it be your will” – Should an attorney want to devise an escape clause in our prayers to God, this would be it! Yet didn’t Jesus pray: “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42)? He did, but the context was Gethsemane. It was a prayer of submission to God’s will, Christ signaling his willingness to go along with God’s plan. Note that it’s a prayer he prayed for himself, not for another. It’s a different animal altogether when we intercede for someone else, for a person who is suffering. But how often do we pray in the presence of sick individuals: “Lord, if it be your will, heal Jane of her cancer.” Don’t send that kind of wishy-washy, escape clause prayer to God on my behalf. When I’m too weak to do it myself, storm the gates of heaven for me! Grab the throne of grace with a firm grip, and plead my cause (Hebrews 4:16). Pray a prayer that lets faith rise within me, don’t anoint me for burial with a half-hearted “If it be your will.”

There’s my list. Now it’s your turn. To what unhelpful sayings would you bid farewell?


Photo credits:

Cowboy – Sound Cloud

Mark Lowry – The Grand Macon



Greg is interested in many topics, including theology, philosophy, and science.

One thought on “5 unhelpful expressions that should ride into the sunset

  1. Hi, Greg. As for #3 ~~ sorry, but one of my songs is entitled this, due to what Jesus did. But there’s no condescension in it, none at all. It’s more a plea for compassion for sinners, and a suggestion to not act in that condescending way you mention:
    (v 2 or 3 of 3 or 4; yeah, been awhile since looking at my own song!) 😉

    When you see another who’s fallen by the way, do you say, ‘How awful!’ then quickly run away to … find yourself a listening ear, or do you feel their shame, and breathe their name to Jesus, so that they might be reclaimed?
    CHORUS: Hate the sin but love the sinner, don’t treat ’em with contempt,
    For we’re to show them Jesus’ love and never to attempt
    To put them down before others, think we’re much better than they.
    All our righteousness is as filthy rags, it’s by God’s mercy we are saved today.

    Yes, all of us are in need of the same mercy, so no room for condescension.

    BTW, I’ve not bro’t it out much since hearing this controversy about this phrase beginning long ago, tho’ it does counter much of what is tho’t about this concept.

    Now, as for #5 ~~ a hearty amen to that, for sure. That can surely leave someone hanging … thinking back now to when some (not all!) would pray that way while Danny (who cancer got in the end) was still with us.

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