Make Life Sweet: An Explication



“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

We’ve all heard this one before.  You may even roll your eyes when the cliche stumbles off of someone’s tongue, but I have never appreciated the adage as much as I have in the past few months.

Here’s why:

Let’s analyze this together. The sentence is broken up into two parts: the first clause “When life gives you lemons,” and the second “make lemonade.”

The first clause asserts that there will be things in life that are simply out of your control. This is inevitable. “When” is declarative and thus, you have no choice in the matter. Do yourself a favor and forget the “what-if” game from the get-go.

It will also be recurring as indicated in the plural form of “lemons.” This isn’t a one-time wham bam, thank you m’am scenario! Life will constantly throw lemons your way, so it’s best to arm yourself with a strategy than to bruise every time a lemon comes falling out of the sky.

However though life can have a hint of sourness, she is also gentle. She “gives” you lemons. “Give,” as opposed to the verbs I used above like “throw” or “fall,” has a connotation of kindness. Friends give hugs. People give birthday presents. Life gives you lemons. Therefore, though life will present you with hardships, she’s still rooting for you! She wants you to take the sour challenge and use it, learn from it, and make yourself a better person.

Also notice the syntax of the sentence, the way it’s structured. It’s not, “Make lemonade when life gives you lemons.” The ‘,’ is important! Commas function as a pause in a sentence, reminding the reader to take a breath. So when life gives you lemons, BREATHE.

Then “make lemonade.” Make something sweet from a sour situation. Make the best of what you will inevitably be given. Make your own happiness. “Make” is an active verb. It requires hard work, determination, and undoubtedly several mistakes along the way, but that IS the creative process. You make things happen for yourself. You make change. And soon, you make lemonade to nourish your body, mind, and soul as you trek along until life gives you the next lemon. In which case, yes – you guessed it! You make more lemonade.


  • Epham 4 years ago

    I love this breakdown and walkthrough! You really brought more meaning to such simple words. We toss around cliches, conventional wisdom, and mantras so much that they simply become “noise.” It’s so nice to take a breather and really think about what we’re saying. Way to go for helping us be more mindful, deliberate, and conscious of our thoughts and actions.

    Please consider making a series of these deep, operational dissections of cliches!