Common sense is mostly defined as discernment, perspicacity, acumen, intelligence, and even wisdom.
But, get this. That definition doesn’t apply to many of what we have long deemed or claimed to be common sense.
In the Lebanese culture, rich with old adages and inherited “wisdom”, we tend to use or believe in quite some of these proclaimed wise sayings that are actually wrong, or illogical, or lack wisdom. Some are even abusive, or discriminatory, or totally ridiculous.
According to almost all dictionaries out there, common sense is defined as “a basic ability to perceive, understand, and judge in a manner that is shared by nearly all people.”
This means that these are popular beliefs that are not necessarily valid or correct or carrying wisdom, as advanced studies have pointed out.
In Lebanon, we use some that actually defy their proclaimed values of wisdom, intelligence, and discernment. Here are some thought-provoking ones:
#1 He who beats you, loves you من ضربك احبك
This one tops our list here for being not only absurd but a baseless justification of violence and abuse, claiming them an inherent characteristic of Love.
It justifies physical violence in relationships, including child abuse by caregivers, punishment by authority figures (i.e. teachers, formerly), and domestic violence. It calls to accept and yield to violence done unto us in the name of Love.
This is plain and simple a dangerous lie since true Love is never violent.
#2 Laugh and the world laughs to you اضحك تضحك لك الدنيا
While meant to call for an optimistic attitude, it is kind of absurd to assume that laughter takes away your problems.
Laughter is therapeutic, sure, but hey, how about trying some productive work instead?
#3 Too many cooks spoil the cooking كثرة الطباخين تنزع الطبخة
This “wisdom”, somehow, hasn’t heard about teamwork. Fact is, it is not the too many cooks or team players that spoil the cooking or the project but the lack of organization and coordination.
We all know that for a project to succeed team players are needed. As the Lebanese adage says (yeah, got to bring this up), “One hand alone doesn’t clap.”
#4 The absent has his excuse الغائب عذره معه
It’s kind of similar to “no news, good news” but this one mainly means to tell you to wait for the absent to show up to give their excuse. It called for patience in past centuries when there were no phones and cellphones, and no internet.
Today, it doesn’t stand true. It actually gives false hope in instances of ghosting, which is kind of cruel. It does also push you to idle patience when the loved one might be needing your help or for you to check on them.
Instances of reality are many that contradict this common sense.
For instance, how many have waited for those who have walked out and never gave a reason or excuse?
#5 The wound only hurts on its spot الجرح ما بيوجع الا بمحلو
If taken literally, many wounds do cause pain in other body areas, like wounding your knee in a fall and pain manifesting on your hip and shoulders, or migraines and earaches resulting from a tooth issue, etc.
The claimed wisdom behind this is that only the person who’s suffering knows the real pain of their predicament. It holds some truth… only if no one else has ever suffered the same pain.
Humans after all do tend to relate to or identify with the pain of others more often than not. Mothers, for instance, tend to feel their offspring’s pain as their very own and more.
#6 Better a thousand-time coward than one time RIP
“ألف مرة جبان ولا مرة “الله يرحمه
Debatable at best. Not all acts of bravery lead to a grave. This only justifies cowardice and reinforces fears that cripple us in our life journey.
Courage is a positive and essential human value that must be nurtured, especially that we do need to be brave in life most of the time.
So many acts of bravery have saved lives.
#7 Jail is for men الحبس للرجال
Is it, really?
Whoever came up with this one missed specifying what kind of men belong in prison, because, unlike this “common sense” that prison builds up men, it actually breaks them most of the time.
#8 At the size of your rug, extend your legs
على ادّ ابساطتك ، مدّ اجرايك
Basically, it says that staying within your limitations, or your limited beliefs of yourself, is the wise thing to do. Being ambitious and trying harder to discover how far you can reach is not a good thing. You should instead stay/live/work within your assumed constraints.
In addition to being misleading, it is kind of weird to be used in a culture known to breed ambitious and successful entrepreneurs.
#9 Everybody makes mistake but the right thing is to take initiative, not to leave.
الجميع يخطئ لكن الصواب في المبادرة لا في المغادرة
We had to bring this up for a particular (timely) reason: A claimed common sense used by a prominent Lebanese politician in 2016, and see where it got us and the country: A failed state and mayhem caused by the ruling officials and their “initiatives.”
In many instances, leaving one’s position is the only right thing to do. That largely applies to those in charge of a country and its affairs. In the case of Lebanon, the mistakes have been massively destructive and unforgivable and their initiatives self-serving.
#10 Patience is the key to relief الصبر مفتاح الفرج
Basically: Stay put and wait patiently for something to, somehow somewhat, relieve you from your misery and solve your issues. (How is it going so far for the Lebanese people and their now-legendary patience?)
Ever heard about “help yourself and take action”?
#11 Hold on to your bad luck so no worse than that come to you تمسّك بنحسك لا يجيك انحس منو
Fatalistic at best. Another misleading “common sense” that makes no sense. It literally says that one should hang on to his/her bad situation instead of doing something about it.
There’s no such thing as luck but just another excuse not to deal with what is causing the bad situation.
#12 Every tall person is imbecile and every short person a troublemaker on earth
كل طويل هبيل، وكل قصير في الأرض فتنة
Who’s left, please do tell?
It is actually absurd (and stupid and troublemaking) to judge the characters of others by their size and shape.
#13 The nearby monastery doesn’t heal
الدير القريب ما بيشفي
The statement claims that one has to go farther away to be healed, denying as such the divine power in which they believe, just for being close-by.
It is to note that this was initially said in sarcasm towards those lacking faith in the blessings they have.
#14 The blue bead wards off the curse by an eye
الخرزة زرقة بيمنع صيبة العين
An ancient superstition turned into a popular belief among those who believe in curses.
Not sure how a blue bead made of plastic or glass could have such power as to avert a curse of envy. After all, an alleged curse only affects the “recipient” when he/she truly believes in it, as studies have shown. So you really don’t need a blue bead. That power is in your own belief.
#15 Do good and throw into the sea
اعمل منيح وكب بالبحر
This is meant to say: “Don’t mind if the good you do is not appreciated. Keep giving anyway (to the ungrateful).”
We got to agree that this lacks wisdom and perspicacity. It is like saying to keep pouring precious olive oil into a broken jar. The wise thing to do is to move on and do your charity where it’s needed the most, for the mean and ungrateful doesn’t need your givings.