Do your Mottos Serve You or Enslave You?

When I was at school we used to have a crest of arms with a motto. Courage and faith.

 do your mottos serve you or enslave you


I also have unspoken mottos and beliefs that I picked up as a children from my parents and my culture. Mostly they are helpful, but some have led me astray.

I have had to review lots of my thinking. Some of the mottos and beliefs that have I unconsciously held on to and have guided me are no longer needed and are actually harmful. I need to replace them with healthier motto’s and beliefs.

Do you have some little motto’s and assumptions that tick along in the background of your thinking?

Perhaps they were drummed into you on a regular basis as a child. These mottos shape your responses, direct your thinking and ultimately can possibly cause you a lot of stress.

Here are a few examples

  • If a jobs worth doing its worth doing well
  • Praise makes proud
  • If its going to be then its up to me
  • Good things are not for us
  • Peace at any price
  • Never trust a female/male
  • Tall poppies need cutting down
  • Don’t rock the boat

These are but some family and parental beliefs and assumptions, spoken and unspoken, that can be handed on to us as children and then reinforced trough experiences as adults.

Not every family motto is negative, but it is the negative ones that need to be reassessed and challenged. Are they creating hope or havoc in you?

There is often a dark side to some of the seemingly good motto’s.

‘If a jobs worth doing its worth doing well’ can lead a to a life of perfectionism. That the job is never quit perfect enough. That others will judge our worth by what we do and so we have to keep to very high standards of performance. If we slip up just a little bit then self loathing can ensue, with depression and anxiety following closely behind.

 Improvement of our lives begins with the renewing of our minds, which is begun in turn by challenging old beliefs and childhood conclusions. David Riddell 

Those family and cultural mottos can keep haunting us like ghosts, shouting at us when we make the slightest mistake. Controlling our every attempt to break out of out current thinking ruts.

  • Never upset mother/father
  • Possessions are more important than people
  • Apologizing equals weakness
  • Sex is a duty
  • It’s us against the world

For a free list of typical family mottos click here 

Do you labour under some heavy family and cultural motto’s? Do you want to come out from under them because they don’t seem to fit anymore.

One day Jesus was talking with people who, just like us, were burdened down by motto’s and rules.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Mathew 11: 28-30 (The Message)

It seems to me that Jesus was offering an alternative way of living. A life where grace was an under girding motto. Jesus was pointing his finger towards heavenly family mottos and beliefs that were supernaturally based and not contrived by humanity. Jesus was one who did not conform to the ‘thinking patterns of this world’.

Paul wrote about it this way

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:1,2 (The Message)

How do we come out from the Family cultural motto’s of today and learn to ‘live freely and lightly’?

1. Get away with Jesus. Spend time in prayer, quietly praying for his wisdom and peace.

2. Ask Jesus to reveal the faulty family or cultural beliefs that are ‘heavy or ill-fitting’. We all have them and Jesus wants to give you a new set that are based on grace. Motto’s that will help you to ‘recover your life’.

3. Trace back to where you learnt this faulty way of thinking. When was is that you that you learnt them.

4. Ask your ‘self’ this. Does this belief serve you or enslave you?

5. Prayerfully ask what would be a healthier and balanced alternative motto?

6. Write this new way of thinking down in an insight journal. A little book you can carry around and refer back to time and time again. A book of insights to refresh your thinking.

Family and cultural motto’s don’t have to control your world now. They can replaced by new ways of thinking.


Questions to consider and leave a comment. 

  1. What mottos, both good and bad, guide your thinking?
  2. What cultural mottos are harmful to you?
  3. What cultural mottos are helpful?


Barry Pearman

p.s. For a free list of typical family mottos click here 

Photo Credit: RedDeadDragon via Compfight cc

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