We've all heard it.
No one knows who started it.
No one ever explains it.
But we get it.
One-liners can do that. We often think of a one-liners as a type of joke, but here we mean a simple phrase that helps us shift our current perception to one that is more helpful. The psychological term is positive cognitive reframe.
We use one-liners throughout day, saying some out loud and others silently to ourselves. We may have learned them growing up or gathered them over the years. You probably have a few favorites without being aware of them. Others you may find totally annoying.
One-liners can be powerful forces for good or for destruction. Political movements and product champions know the power of a good catchphrase. In the world of today's social media, a one-liner can ignite a crowd and develop a life of its own almost instantly.
Some, like No pain no gain and Nike's Just Do It grow out of a particular culture, in this case the athletic world. You may remember some of your grandmother's favorite sayings. We resonate with some of the any catchphrases we hear and instinctively make them part of our own repertoire. Becoming conscious of our collection, weeding out those are unhelpful and consciously adding others can be a powerful way of correcting our course throughout the day.
Here are a few examples:
Keep on keeping on.
Do the next right thing.
Let go and let God.
One day at a time.
Progress, not perfection.
If nothing changes, nothing changes.
First things first.
What went right today?
Your response to an individual one-liners depends on your own personal history and the area of your life that could use a little shoring up right now. I tend toward judgment, and the adage "They're just doing the best they can with what they've got" doesn't hold water with me. Instead I remind myself, "I have no idea what brings this person to this moment," which is absolutely true. I don't entirely know what brings me to this moment, so how can I know the depths of another's heart? Hitting that quick reset button saves me from a lot of useless mind chatter and sometimes an unkind action.
One-liners show up on calendars, t-shirts and hanging on walls. Years ago I visited a parish office that had John 1:20 displayed on a plaque. The plaque reminded staff and visitors, "I am not the Messiah." From time to time we need to be reminded.
IN PRAYER AND MEDITATION
A second type of one-liner is a word or phrase that is repeated, silently or out loud, during prayer or meditation. We use this word or phrase to gently redirect ourselves when our minds scamper off, as they invariably do. Open awareness meditation, which we tend to describe as emptying the mind, is notoriously difficult. A focused meditation where we use a word or phrase to call ourselves back, while not magic, is one step easier.
At some point I read that if you use a phrase repeatedly in prayer it will eventually begin to permeate your day, coming spontaneously to mind without effort. I was skeptical, confident such things happened only to a special few.
Until it began happening to me. I had tried various phrases over the course of a couple years, none of which seemed to be a fit. Eventually I settled into "Blessed are you, O Lord, our God, creator of the universe." A competent meditation teacher would probably say the phrase is too long and complicated, but I love its long history in both Judaism and Christianity. For some reason I began to use it. Sure enough, as I'm sitting at a stop sign or staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night or weeding my garden or preparing for a difficult conversation the phrase floats up without my bidding it. I am always glad for the reminder.
Not my will but yours.
For all that has been, yes. For all that will be, yes. (Dag Hammarskjold)
Light my path.
Be with me, Lord.
Let us remember we are in the holy presence of God. (A refrain of the Brothers of the Christian Schools.)
Your grace is sufficient.
Whether a daytime slogan or a prayer-time anchor, one-liners have a subtle, and sometimes not-so-subtle, ability to move us toward spiritual resilience. Like searching for a pair of comfortable shoes, you need to try on a few and take them out on the road. After you find the right pair and break them in, you won't even be aware you're wearing them.
Until you stop and remember what those old blisters on your toes felt like.