When I think hard enough about the proverb – all good things must come to an end – I can flip its meaning to suit anything depending on what is going on in my life at the time.
If things are going well, I can use it as a little bit of a reminder that the good feeling probably won’t last forever. It will be circumvented by other events, other realities, other people, other places.
A reminder to savor the moment and live in the present.
If things are going badly, particularly when bad things come directly on the heels of good things, I can use it as a reminder that not too long ago things were good and that they only ended in order to make way for better things.
Sadly, a reminder that the past held better things. A collection of memories that I can use to ease the pain of the present.
In terms of the history or etymology of this phrase, I did not find much. What I found, though, was powerful to me.
I learned that it is considered a proverb, which took me aback because when I hear the word “proverb” I instantly think of the Bible. But, I reminded myself that a proverb is any simple or concrete saying that denotes truth based on common sense or practical knowledge.
This particular proverb apparently originated during the time of Chaucer in the late 1300s.
Interestingly, the original saying did not include the modifying word ‘good’.
In the original form – “all things come to an end” – it is definitive; neither negative nor positive at all. It can be applied to both good and bad happenings. However, when ‘good’ is added, the connotation becomes fatalistic and negative and evokes a sense of inevitability and melancholy.
After this analysis, I will begin using this proverb, when I use it at all, without the ‘good’. Lord knows I don’t need any more reminders that the end of happiness is lurking.
© 2010-2013 Kimberly Yoss. All rights reserved. No part of this online publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior approval from Kimberly Yoss.