Bad things happen. People die. War happens. Careers end. What can you say?

“This too shall pass.”

Life is temporary. Our world is temporary. It was my mother’s favorite expression. She said it to comfort me when I was unhappy, if something had gone badly. It never occurred to me the expression was more than common words a mother says to console a child.

It turns out the expression has a long, ancient history. It has been used to comfort a nation at war, a country consumed by unrest. Families, individuals, kingdoms. These are words to use when other words fail you.


This too shall pass” (Persian: این نیز بگذرد‎, Arabic: لا شيء يدوم‎, Hebrew: גם זה יעבור‎) is an adage indicating that all conditions, positive or negative, are temporary.

The phrase seems to have originated in the writings of the medieval Persian Sufi poets. The phrase is often attached to a fable of a great king who is humbled by these simple words. Some versions of the fable, beginning with that of Attar of Nishapur, add the detail that the phrase is inscribed on a ring, which has the ability to make the happy man sad — and the sad man happy.

The legend of the quote finds its roots in the court of a powerful eastern Persian ruler who called his sages (wise men) to him, including the Sufi poet Attar of Nishapur, and asked them for one quote that would be accurate at all times and in all situations. The wise men consulted with one another, and threw themselves into deep contemplation, and finally came up with the answer … “This too, shall pass.”

The ruler was so impressed by the quote that he had it inscribed in a ring.

Jewish folklore often describes Solomon as giving or receiving the phrase. The adage and associated fable were popular in the first half of the 19th century, appearing in a collection of tales by the English poet Edward Fitzgerald and also used by Abraham Lincoln in a speech before he became President.

And when words fail me, my mother’s voice echoes in my head.

This too, shall pass. Because everything is temporary. 


  1. angloswiss May 9, 2017 / 1:23 pm

    Just wondering if those guys ever had their place renovated by an army of builders and plasterers. They might have changed their mind. Of course it will pass, but no-one seems to know the exact date.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. swo8 May 9, 2017 / 1:32 pm

    A lot of wisdom to that saying and comfort too, except when the good times roll in and you know it isn’t going to last.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. judyt54 May 9, 2017 / 1:35 pm

    we have a saying around here (usually to calm someone down from, god forbid, being too happy); “Cahn’t last. Don’t get used to it.” Same thing, different accent. =)


    • Marilyn Armstrong May 9, 2017 / 1:42 pm

      It’s both a comfort and a warning. Great for moms. Sort of lets you give them the whole package in just a few words. While ironing.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Sue Vincent May 9, 2017 / 1:42 pm

    It is a good one to ponder… I wrote about the phrase myself a goodly while ago as it kept cropping up. A good one to remember too.


  5. dancingpalmtrees May 9, 2017 / 1:47 pm

    Great post. Never knew the origins of the saying. Actually after hearing it said or sung in church for years I really thought it was a Gospel song. It is a Gospel song but now I know where the expression came from.


    • Marilyn Armstrong May 9, 2017 / 3:38 pm

      It’s one of those “true” sayings and apparently true in every language and religion. I thought it was just something my mother told me.


  6. Sarah Angleton May 9, 2017 / 2:18 pm

    “Accurate at all times and in all situations.” That about says it. I had no idea the expression had such deep roots.


  7. Vivian Zems May 9, 2017 / 2:23 pm

    So comforting. It really spoke to my situation . Excellent post!


  8. updownflight May 9, 2017 / 2:33 pm

    That was very interesting to learn about the phrase’s origins. Thank you for providing that information.


    • Marilyn Armstrong May 9, 2017 / 3:49 pm

      I found it interesting too, which is why I wrote it. I looked it up, more or less on a whim and was very surprised at how much history was part of it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • updownflight May 9, 2017 / 3:50 pm

        I also very much enjoy the occasional researched piece. I have a few of them in my blog post list.


    • Marilyn Armstrong May 9, 2017 / 6:42 pm

      I often feel that not being a drinker, I’ve missed important stuff. I think it may be a little late to start serious drinking now. But I’m considering it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Garry Armstrong May 10, 2017 / 11:46 am

      “Gimme a beer. A beer’s not drinking”
      Edmond O’Brien as Dutton Peabody, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” (’62/Paramount)

      Liked by 2 people

  9. jcalberta May 9, 2017 / 5:46 pm

    Sufism. The mystical wing of Islam. Poets and Sages.
    Unfortunately, I’m guessing they aren’t well read over there today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marilyn Armstrong May 9, 2017 / 6:41 pm

      They were read quite a lot in the previous century and certainly in the 1800s. Their thoughts and philosophies are part of literature — and poetry, especially. I am not one of those readers. I read a lot, but never got into that stuff. There is so much to read in this world. I’m not sure I will ever get to it 🙂


  10. lwbut May 10, 2017 / 4:50 am

    There’s something special about the age old wisdom that in the same 4 words can bring both hope to the downtrodden and humility to the exuberant. Time is a leveller – it can wear down mountains or fill up seas, just as it can build them and fill them. Time does not stand still for long so we should expect that all things change – be they good or bad. Good post I enjoyed it. 🙂



  11. Garry Armstrong May 10, 2017 / 11:35 am

    I covered myriad coastal floods over the decades. Usually the same locations. Reached the point where I knew exactly where to go. Often the same families. Didn’t even have to ask the question. As I shook my head and bit my bottom lip, they would say, “It’s okay. We’re okay. We’ll build again right here.” Then on to the next location….ditto.


    • Marilyn Armstrong May 13, 2017 / 1:05 pm

      I always loved the “We’ll build here again.” They must have one powerful insurance policy.


  12. Bette A. Stevens May 24, 2017 / 9:19 pm

    Oh so true… Thanks for the fascinating background on a phrase I too heard often as a child, Marilyn! xo


    • Marilyn Armstrong May 24, 2017 / 9:23 pm

      I was surprised, too. I really thought it was just something my mother said.


Talk to me!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s