Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Frivolous Betrayal of "Good Luck"

I’m a bit of a vocabulary nerd. Learning new words was always my favorite part of high school English. I get a thrill from having exactly the right word to use in a given situation. As a preacher, words are my trade, and communicating with clarity and power is extremely important. So, I found it incredibly strange and sad that I often use the phrase “good luck.” See, if I’ve ever wished you good luck, I was lying to you, since I don’t believe in luck or chance or any such thing. I believe in a wise and good God who has ordained all things, down to the smallest details, according to his sovereign and gracious will. Nothing is left to chance.

This got me thinking last week - why do I still use that phrase? I think I have because it’s an easy and cheap way to express the sentiment I want to convey. “Good luck” is the verbal equivalent of a Hallmark card – sentimental and appreciated, but in reality devoid of any real meaning. I may wish you good luck because it’s common and easy, but when I do so I sadly betray the fact that I’m not really focused on your endeavor, since my response indicates that all the feeling I can muster is to wish you something that I don’t even believe exists. “Good luck” requires little thought and effort, and thus is by definition cheap.

This begs the question – what would be a better substitute? After much thought, I think I’m going to adopt “Godspeed.” The expression is somewhat dated and uncommon, and it may require explanation at times when I use it – but is that really a bad thing? If I genuinely wish you well in your endeavors, shouldn’t I be willing to take the extra 10 seconds to accurately tell you how I feel? What better wish could I offer someone than that the sovereign King of the universe speed them on their way and guide their every move? So much of our communication is driven by pleasantry and convenience with no real feeling behind it (do you ever really care how someone’s doing when you ask “How’s it going?”). I’m determined not to let “good luck” become another instance of that sad reality. So, as you journey through the rest of your day, let me be the first to wish you Godspeed.


Anonymous said...

When my boyfriend and I part, it is always with "Go with God". I think it carries the same meaning as "Godspeed". And it's romantic...

When I say, "good luck", it's usually with a bit of irony..."I know your ability and the circumstance and you are going to need all of the happenstance and coincidence of the universe coming together at the same time in order for you to win that game. good luck." ;-)

For the Special Olympics kids, I tell them "Go make your own luck"

Jessica said...

Michael and I find ourselves often saying "We were really lucky -- no, blessed -- for that to happen." I don't know why as a society we are so quick to name luck, but I think you're right that it’s more habitual than genuine, alike "How's it going?"

At the same time, if someone said "Godspeed" to me, I think I might assume at first that they were being sarcastic. I'm not sure why, but I suppose the fact that the expression is archaic gives it an insincere connotation.