Sam Holstein

Why We Should All Stop Saying “Good Luck”

Why We Should All Stop Saying “Good Luck”

The phrase “Good Luck” sucks. I know, this seems petty, but hear me out. “Good luck” is not a religious or emotional statement in any way. It’s something we say to each other to communicate ‘I want the best for you (in this matter).’ But “good luck” is a terrible way to say this. Despite being a common phrase, it’s got a couple of significant problems.

First, “good luck” is a pessimistic phrase. It encourages, as the psychologists say, an external locus of control. In non-psychology-speak, this means the phrase “good luck” encourages us to see events as outside of our control (as opposed to within our control). When we perceive outcomes as outside our control, we don’t work to affect them, leaving us in the passenger seat of our lives.

Second, “good luck” implies, to the person you’re saying it to, that they need luck to succeed. Instead of encouraging or helping them, you’re wishing for the world to conspire in their favor. If you had a friend who was about to compete in a contest, you wouldn’t tell them “I hope the judge is feeling lenient today,” but to say “good luck” is to say the same thing.

Last, “good luck” is a terrible phrase no matter what your religious orientation. If you are a theist, and believe in god, it’s bordering on blasphemous. Why are you appealing to a nonexistent ‘luck’ when it is God who directs the events of the world? If you are an atheist, it’s a meaningless statement because it acknowledges there is no way for you to affect this luck. Either way, you’re out of luck (get it?)

I’m not the only one with a complaint about this phrase. Daniel Vahab of Huffington Post tweeted about the phrase ‘good luck’ with the same complaint.

Some obvious religious alternatives to “good luck” include “blessings” and “thoughts and prayers.” But there are some great secular options as well.

In closing, here’s a joke for the road.

“My roommate in college used to always say that luck was (the) “poor man’s pantheism.” I have always remembered that and to this day that pops into my head whenever I hear anyone mention luck.”