Why Do We Make Lemonade When Life Gives Us Lemons?

(Last Updated On: January 4, 2022)

Things happen. Lots of them are cool, but also lots of them are super inconvenient or awful. When those inconvenient things happen, your friends and family have probably told you “well, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” To which you might retort, no, life should have to take those lemons back. As much as we might want to see life’s manager, it does seem like we can’t convince life to take its lemons back yet, so making lemonade will have to do. While we’re juicing them, why do we make lemonade when life gives us lemons?

The Point

You’re probably aware of what the idiom means, but let’s just make sure we all know what the lemons are here. The lemons are just something difficult in your life, rooted on how they’re sour fruits. Turning them into lemonade is supposed to make them something you like more, despite the fact that people seem to like eating raw lemons. Maybe when life gives us lemons, we should just eat them, because a lot of us just like lemons?

Anyway, while you understand the point of the idiom, eating raw lemons was not the point. 

Christian Anarchy

This might sound like it kind of doesn’t really make sense, since anarchy is about rejecting authority. But the idiom “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” was actually coined by a Christian anarchist. Crash course in Christian anarchism is that Christianity and the Gospels are rooted in anarchy–there exists only one source of authority that Christians are obligated to answer to (that authority is God). Thus, Christian anarchists reject the authority of government, believing it idolatrous. In case you were wondering, Christian anarchy does kind of square away the relationship between Christians and God. Remembering that anarchy broadly rejects hierarchy, the relationship between humanity and God is characterized by servant leadership and universal compassion–rather than an arbitrary authoritative structure. Seems like it might be splitting hairs, but whatever makes your lemonade taste better. 

Okay, back to the guy who was making lemon out of lemonade. The idiom was first used by a guy named Elbert Hubbard in 1915. Our lemonade-making sentiment was used in an obituary of an actor named Marshall Pinckney Wilder, who was a dwarf. Hubbard states that Wilder was “a sound mind in an unsound body. […] He picked up the lemons that Fate had sent him and started a lemonade-stand.”

Some modern authors credit the phrase to Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living (1948). The idiom has appeared in other writings from 1916 and 1940 by various authors, though. 

Speaking of lemons and sour things, here’s a sour-noted crossword. 



About Kyler 685 Articles
Kyler is a content writer at Sporcle living in Seattle, and is currently studying at the University of Washington School of Law. He's been writing for Sporcle since 2019; sometimes the blog is an excellent platform to answer random personal questions he has about the world. Most of his free time is spent drinking black coffee like water.