Old-School Wisdom We Need Today

Updated: Jul 1

By: Charasay Powell

Advanced education is steadily becoming more attainable. Modern technology allows information (and misinformation) to travel from one end of the world to the other in a matter of minutes. It sometimes seems like everyone is an expert in some aspect of life, from relationships to health to cooking and more. However, with easy access to so much information, we should never forget the lessons of wisdom passed down from our Grandmothers and Great-Grandmothers that still hold true today.

Even though older generations had limitations on their education, and may have lived simple, domestic lives without benefit of travel or high-powered careers, they dropped gems that their progeny often took for granted. What they lacked in formal education, they made up for in common sense, discernment, and wisdom. These amazing ancestors of ours shared much of their wisdom through simple sayings and life lessons, often short and sweet but clever, that covered subjects from everyday life advice to beauty hacks that many of us can reflect on today as we navigate this thing called life.

Let’s reminisce on some of these sayings and mantras that are just as powerful (and spot on) as they were for our foremothers, an insightful generation.


Big Mama knew that even once we cross into the coveted land of Grown Folk, the rule of karma applies to all of us. We are free to make our own choices, but we are not free from the consequences of these choices. Big Mama warned us to be especially careful about what we do to others.

  • “If you dig one ditch, you’d better dig two!”

  • “It will all come out in the wash, and what’s left will come out in the rinse.”

  • “When you make your bed hard, you have to roll over more often.”

  • “God don’t like Ugly, and He ain’t too fond of Pretty!”

  • “A hard head makes for a soft behind!

  • “You’re gonna reap everything you sow!”


Grandma and the Aunties came from a time when marriage really was for life. These ladies were ride or die, and they could give the YouTube “experts” a run for their money when it comes to common-sense romance. They kept things simple and plain, and they knew what they were talking about!

  • “Romance without Finance is a Nuisance (usually said in a Southern accent such that it all rhymes).”

  • “How you got him is how you'll lose him!”

  • “Always have your own. Never rely on a man!”

  • “Pretty is as pretty does.”

  • “Ain’t no man gonna buy the cow when he can get the milk for free!”

Beauty and Housekeeping

  • “Use baking soda and coconut oil to clean your face (be gentle).”

  • “Keep an aloe plant in your kitchen and in your bedroom so that you can use the gel for burns, scrapes, and as a skin moisturizer; etc.”

  • “Clean glass with vinegar and old newspapers.”

  • “Clean sinks and tubs with baking soda and water (paste).”

  • “Unclog a drain with baking soda, white vinegar, and salt.”

  • “A crushed aspirin and/or a copper penny helps to keep fresh flowers longer.” (the jury’s still out on whether that is true).


Our foremothers held many empowering beliefs. Even if they were homemakers, field hands, or did what others deemed “women’s work,” they taught us to have strong character and not to follow the crowd.

  • “Say what you mean and mean what you say!”

  • “If you can’t find anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

  • “One monkey don’t stop no show!”

  • “You don’t want to be anyone’s Ace in the hole—they only pull you out when they need ya.”

  • Russian proverb “Measure seven times, cut once”. English equivalents: "Se