I heard something inspiring on the radio this morning. Of course, as someone who loves talk radio, and who listens to what I consider quality talk–why spend my time with something subpar when there are so many other things I could spend my time on–hearing something inspiring on the radio isn’t anything new or strange. But this particular item was inspiring enough that I wanted to write about it.
Now, go back to the title of this post, and read it out loud: “Mind your own business”. How does this phrase automatically sound when you read it? What punctuation do you put on the end? What sort of situation does it cause you to imagine? Have you used this phrase before? What kind of situation was it? I know I automatically associated the phrase with anger and with someone snooping in my life or in someone else’s life. I imagine telling (and have told) people to ‘mind your own business’. I suspect most people associate it with someone trying to control aspects of your life that you are certain the control of lies solely in your hands, or someone otherwise violating your privacy.
But this morning I thought of it in a new light. This new light doesn’t give it a different definition, per se. But it does mean something very different to me, now. Let’s break down the phrase into its parts and see if you feel the same.
Mind. What does it mean to mind something? Merriam-Webster gives several possible definitions. Some of them are: remind; remember; to attend to closely; to become aware of: notice; to regard with attention: consider important; intend; purpose; to be concerned about; to be careful; to be cautious about; to give protective care to; to be attentive or wary; to become concerned. Of course, this list doesn’t include the meanings that would be implied in the phrase “Mind your parents”. But as you read through this list, it becomes apparent that minding something is taking excellent care of something.
Your Own. This is pretty clear, I think. But I’ll mention it anyway. Something that is your own belongs to you and not to other people. If you combine this with the first word of the phrase, you’ll see that you are being told to take care of something that only you can take care of, because it belongs to you and you alone.
Now we’re to the last word of the phrase: business. What is your business? We probably all have slightly different specific definitions of this, because that specificity changes based upon our own life philosophies and circumstances. Again utilizing Merriam-Webster, I found that an archaic definition is ‘purposeful activity’. For phrases such as the one I’m evaluating here, I like archaic definitions. “Archaic” definitions are historical definitions, and therefore tell us more about the original intention of a phrase. What is your ‘purposeful activity? Other definitions include role, function; an immediate task or objective; affair; personal concern. So how does ‘your own business’ apply to your life? In a previous post, I discussed purpose as a parent (see My Single Most Important Job as a Parent). I have other important purposes that include being a good wife, taking care of our physical home, writing this blog, and preparing myself for future endeavors (see Homeschooling Yourself). Of course, each of these larger purposes breaks down into smaller and smaller aspects, until we get to the smallest task (such as writing this post or picking up the dirty laundry off of the bathroom floor). My smaller purposes may not be exactly yours. If you’re not a parent (or in some child-care role), homeschooling and changing dirty diapers probably means very little to you in terms of purposeful activity. If you’re not a model, posing for photographs probably seems like frivolous activity. And schmoozing with the rich and powerful probably seems like useless activity–that is, unless it helps you to perform your job duties.
Regardless of all the specific aspects and tasks, I think we can all agree that preparing for the future is pretty high on the list of purposes we all have , and that perhaps it is the single all-encompassing purpose. So, I’m telling all of my readers now: Mind your own business! What have you done today to take care of your business? How have you prepared yourself or your children or your home for the future? I can tell you that this makes me think of all the things I have not yet done: the letters I haven’t sent or even written, the skills I believe I need to learn, the things I haven’t yet taught my kids, the attention I haven’t paid to my pets, the neighbors whom I’ve neglected to check in on and help in some way, the home repairs I’ve not finished yet… I challenge you to ask yourself every evening, “How have I minded my business today?” If you can’t answer yourself satisfactorily, make it a goal to be able to do so the following day.
Of course, as I stated at the beginning, this doesn’t change the meaning. Things in other peoples’ lives that do not directly affect you are not your business. You should still strive not to attempt to mind other people’s business. And why should you, when you have so much of your own that needs minding?