Proverbial Friday – Global Wisdom



I find there to be profound wisdom in proverbs, sayings and quotes and I marvel at the way they are so succinct in communicating messages to the reader. Mostly anonymous, they come to us from past generations and from across cultures. They speak of the experiences of lives lived and lessons learned. Quotes, like proverbs, make us think more deeply about something.

Each Friday, I post a Proverb or Saying and a Quote that I find thought-provoking. 

I hope you will too.

malcsine cafe



One hand washes the other – Polish Proverb



What do you think this old proverb refers to?

That we should help those who are of our ilk, our neighbours, our community? Or does it refer to a mutually beneficial partnership, similar to “If you scratch my back, I will scratch yours?”

Perhaps it refers to being self reliant?  Naturally helping oneself?

Could it be a spurious saying to motivate those who tend to be lazy?



Criminals usually prey on weakness. They can smell it. ~ Steven Seagal


Can they indeed?

It has been suggested that some criminals are extremely intelligent, but choose to use their intelligence for nefarious purposes. These unscrupulous types take advantage of perceived weaknesses. Profiling seems to suggest that certain criminals have an instinct for selecting their victims? Could Steven Seagal be referring to this sense?


Join in the discussion by leaving a comment as to what these proverbs, saying or quotes mean to you. Have you heard them said before? In what context.

I would love to hear your thoughts.



Proverbial Friday

St P A

Now posting every Friday – Always Something to Ponder About



23 thoughts on “Proverbial Friday – Global Wisdom”

  1. Hi, the “Polish” proverb is also well known in Germany. However, its origin is around 2,000 years old, and the proverb was in fact created by the famous Roman philosoph and poet Seneca saying: “Manus manum lavat.” So its basical meaning points on a very common human attitude being seemingly unchanged as time passes by.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Original meaning was: if you give me something you shall get something back. It is nearly the same symbolic point of view as being used or understood today (well at least here in Germany, I can not speak for Poland). Europe is complicated, I know. Nice weekend!


        1. Yes, I think I do know what you are referring to. I did think of this inference too, and it is surprising how often politicians come to mind when we think of them, (to use another cliche), incahoots with the boy’s club, or feathering their own/ each other’s nests, jobs for the boys” and others. Do you think it seems to be somewhat of an accepted business practice, in certain parts?


  2. As you said, I also think the first quote refer to the idea of you scratch my back, I scratch yours. In this world, it’s very hard to get anywhere on your own. At some point, most of the time you’ll get stuck; you’ll ask for directions and reach out to get a sense of direction. But as you said, this quote can allude to self-reliance: that is you look out for yourself wherever you go, and that you make use of two hands and what you’ve got. It could also refer to someone being lazy as you mentioned too – usually that might be the case of someone helping someone over and over again because either they have the heart to do it, or they don’t recognise the other person is simply being lazy. Or maybe some partnerships are just that way.

    I’ve always wondered what goes on in the mind of a criminal. Perhaps they do prey on other’s weaknesses and exploit that to get ahead. On the other hand, they might always be observing and trying to find a loophole in the system and exploit that. But I guess to be a criminal you do need to be constantly observing, watching everyone’s move to make sure no one else is watching you do what you do. Come to think of it, if you’re always watching others watching you and watching your own back, it gets exhaustive after a while and maybe that’s when your guard comes down.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I will deal with the second part of your comment, first, Mabel, regarding how criminal minds work. I am unfamiliar with their motivation, but I am guessing that it comes from a variety of perspectives. From the have/have not mentality, the apathetic standpoint – who cares, or the emotionally stunted individual who through their own fault or the fault of others, still reacts to situations with a lack of control, displaying anger, frustration or manipulation in inappropriate ways. Then there are the criminals who seek to get rich quick off the backs of others. One site I looked at suggested that sex money addiction and motivation were the main instigators. But then there are others who suggest there is a biological component in that the amgydala in the brain of violent offenders fails to absorb fear conditioning and that that can be present from early on in life. Which brings me to our proverb. Metaphorically, the criminal smells weakness. The criminal whether biologically predisposed or not, exploits a situation that others would pass by, due to their fear conditioning. Is this weakness, to have been conditioned to act appropriately for our society, out of fear? Perhaps as fear can be considered a weakness. But it might also be considered a strength here – in that we have observed society and seen that in order to get ahead in a secure, honest and altruistic way, we need to be fearful of consequences if our behaviour is unchecked or inappropriate. We exhibit impulse control. That I see as a strength! On the opposite extreme, we do not want to be too fearful of every action. Sometimes we want to challenge ourselves, but we want to do that in a way that does not affect others adversely.
      Nice also to know that we were thinking similarly in regard to the Hands proverb. It will be interesting to read how others interpret it. Thanks for your comment, Mabel. I will get back to our book in the next few weeks.


      1. It is intriguing to read the differnet motives of different criminals, and what might motivate them to do what they want to do. Maybe it’s something they can’t control, preying on others’ weakness. Exploit is probably the key word here – and it’s probably what each criminal tends to do. Their fear could be conditioned, or maybe it can be conditioned out of fear or retribution too. A lot of these emotions can be the product of society too, and the way the status quo is. Not saying we should all be criminals but many criminals are very driven and dedicated towards their motives and what they want to achieve – and you really don’t know what they are capable of…and we ourselves don’t know what exactly we are capable of.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, many of us are capable of unspeakable acts forced into the right circumstances (or wrong circumstances). One only has to cast our mind back to WWII to see what humans are capable of. Humans that exhibit perfect impulse control and fear of retribution, in their indigenous surroundings. I think the research shows however, that violent criminals exhibit the LACK of these inhibitions, in that they fail to control their primitive urges and are not held back by any fear, from am extremely young age. They are not innocent or naive children. Martin Bryant, of the Point Arthur Massacre is on example. He was interviewed as an 8 year old who lacked impulse control, the ability to empathize, and the ability to learn from his mistakes. Fear born out of fear, now that is an ironic context. But it is possible. Criminals panic and occasionally kill innocent people without fully intending to do so.


          1. You might be right in that criminals aren’t able to control their feelings and urges, and that can lead to self-destruction and destruction all round. Panic is such a dangerous thing, and that happens when we get pushed over the edge and feel like we are very desperate with no other option to succeed as intended.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Panic indeed can be crippling. Both physically and mentally. Our bodies are an incredible thing, but can completely paralyze us, in a panic situation. I am lucky not to suffer from attacks, but do not people who do suffer with panic and anxiety ( not from criminal intent, though) and it is certainly a difficult thing for them to overcome.

              Liked by 2 people

  3. I always interpreted the first proverb to be a polite request to help, as the others would also help if we needed the help. a positive twisted “Tit for tat!” Back scratching is fine … haha ​​… but I can not recognize the relation to the beneficial partnership… because a “if I do that, you do that” can be thought in a partnership to tease but not seriously. Naturally helping oneself, or motivation are very interesting points and I’m curious to see what comes here for comments, because at first glance I see no connection.

    The second adage,”they can smell it”. Why not. A dog also smells the fear in humans. And criminals often have a specific pattern of sacrifice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Criminals do seem to follow a particular pattern, if we are to believe police procedural and detective novels, Anie!! Fictitious or not, I suppose those patterns might be helpful to the police in narrowing down a list of suspects, for a particular crime.
      To your thought that the proverb might not relate to motivation, my reference does seem a little indirect. Yet I can see a example: one might have said to a neighbour, I can help you out in some way, and the neighbour forsakes you or ignores the attempts to help, or even makes no response when you do indeed help them out in some way. In this case, the person helping is much less likely to help out again. They also will be unlikely to help someone who does not even try help themselves but repeatedly relies on others to help them, without reciprocation or appreciation. They seem to contribute to their own misery. In these situations, when help that is not reciprocated or appreciated, is then completely withdrawn, the individual may be forced to find some scrap of motivation to get off their backside and do something about their situation. This might even give them a sense of achievement. I apologize if this seems quite oblique! In writing this I had in mind, some individuals, known to me, that abuse alcohol instead of trying to cope in more constructive ways with their own difficult situations. Does that make any sense to you?


  4. We have the same proverb in Slovenian (Roka roko umije). Just recently I was thinking about that, about how shocked I was when I started to watch NBA basketball after being spoilt by team Yugoslavia when growing up and their cooperation. In the NBA it was, and is, so individual. Now we have eight or so teams and countries instead of Yugoslavia, and team Slovenia as the reigning champion of Europe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Woo hoo! Congrats for Team Slovenia! Proof that team minded play works! I do agree that sometimes sports people are not collegially minded enough, and this spoils the effect of the whole team, particularly in young boys and girls, who are still developing a team spirit and consciousness. It is as if they desperately want to be the outstanding team star to win approval or recognition, or sponsorships, but don’t remember that if the whole team wins, they win too. They will stand out, regardless, if they have talent. Do you see that in Slovenia in younger people?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Not so sure… I’m not in touch with the young much. There is a 19-year-old Slovenian who was just picked 3rd at the NBA draft and he certainly knows it and now Dallas will know it too. 🙂


  5. I’m behind but decided to have a peek at what your proverbs were here. One hand cannot get clean without the other one getting clean also. Hard to wash just one hand. But given that, it’s use is usually meant in the I’ll help you, you help me context. Maybe I only have one hand and need help to wash it. 🙂 Commonly used as in the I’ll scratch your back and you scratch mind because again, it’s something we need assistance to complete.
    Steven Seagal was right. Those that prey on others can sense your vulnerability and always pick an easy target. It’s in our walk and demeanor of how we carry ourselves out in the world. You’ve seen the mousy woman or the meek mannered man. Vulnerability oozes out of every pore. Easy pickins as they say. I make it a point to stand more erect and powerful when in public. I carry my cane like I might just use it on someone. 🙂 So far, it’s worked. 😉


    1. Marlene I think you are very wise to stand erect and walk confidently with your cane. You clearly understand body language and its implications for safety. Unfortunately, opportunists this day and age, might see an elderly woman walking alone with assistance from a cane as a target, That is the unfortunate reality. However, even so, there is no need to feel vulnerable. I concur that one’s demeanour has a huge effect on whether one appears to be a soft target or not. I learnt this from a policewoman years ago. If you are walking at night, or in a dodgy area, as a female on one’s own, or even a male on one’s own, walk confidently, make brief eye contact with any suspicious folk, with a look of, ” I see you, I know my business, so don’t mess around with me,” sort of expression – (without appearing threatening), and an offender will most likely look for a meeker, less self-assured person to harass.

      Liked by 1 person

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