In My Own Heart and Life

We tend to condemn in the system what we do not recognize in ourselves. Sins do not exist in general; they are specific, concrete, carrying their weight measured in terms of fearful accuracy. We do not sin against humanity; we sin against persons who have names, who are actual, breathing, human beings. The root of what I condemn in society is found at long last in the soil of my own backyard. What I seek to eradicate in society that it may become whole and clean and righteous, I must first attack in my own heart and life.

From Howard Thurman’s Deep is the Hunger, p. 99

Quote of the Day


Photo Thanks to Nicole Mason

Photo Thanks to Nicole Mason


I’m posting quotes as we go through the fuzzy zone of being new parents again in these next days. This quote comes from Howard Thurman (Deep is the Hunger, 97):

If I have slandered, I must call it slander; if I have accused falsely, I must call it false accusation. Again, I must strip myself of all alibis and excuses. It may be true that I did not intend to do it, that it was all a hideous mistake; nevertheless, the injury may be as real to the other person as if my act were deliberately planned. Whatever may be the intent, the harm has been done. Again, I must seek reconciliation on the basis of my sense of responsibility, to the other person and to myself, for the injury done. Human relationships are often tough but sometimes very fragile. Sometimes, when they are ruptured, it requires amazing skill and sensitiveness to reknit them. Therefore, forgiveness is possible between two persons only when the offender is able to stand inside of the harm he has done and look out at himself as if he were the other person.

Considerations on Peace From Howard Thurman

A cursory glance at human history reveals that men have sought for countless generations to bring peace into the world by the instrumentality of violence. The fact is significant because it is tried repeatedly and to no basic advantage. The remark which someone has made, that perhaps the most important fact we learn from history is that we do not learn from history, is very much to the point. Violence is very deceptive as a technique because of the way in which it comes to rescue the of those who are in a hurry. Violence at first is very efficient, very effective. It stampedes, overruns, pushes aside and carries the day. It becomes the major vehicle of power, or the radical threat of power. It inspires fear and resistance. The fact that it inspires resistance is underestimated, while the fact that it inspires fear is overestimated. This is the secret of its deception. Violence is the ritual and the etiquette of those who stand in a position of overt control in the world. As long as this is true, it will be impossible to make power–economic, social or political–responsive to anything that is morally or socially motivating. Men resort to violence when they are unable or unwilling to tax their resourcefulness for methods that will inspire the confidence or the mental and moral support of other men. This is true, whether in the relationship between parents and children in the home or in great affairs of the state involving the affirmation of masses of the people. Violence rarely, if ever, gets the consent of the spirit of men upon whom it is used. It drives them underground, it makes them seek cover, if they cannot overcome it in other ways. It merely postpones the day of revenge and retaliation. To believe in some other way, that will not inspire retaliation and will curb evil and bring about social change, requires a spiritual maturity that has appeared only sporadically in the life of man on this planet. The statement may provide the machinery, but the functioning of it is dependent upon the climate created by the daily habits of the people.

May we tax our own resourcefulness and may these good peaceful things be so in us. (From Deep Is The Hunger, 34-35)

Season of Lent, pt. 6

As we enter into the week that Christians have called holy–or terrible or amazing or horrifying or passion–I’d like to start these next days leading to Easter by thinking about the words of Howard Thurman.  Thurman was a pastor-scholar who, among his many accomplishments, taught at Howard University and Boston University and started the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples.  I encourage you to ponder his words.  As a pastor, theologian, and teacher, Thurman pushed people to think of Jesus and his ministry to the disinherited.  You can read more about him by clicking here.  This meditation comes from Deep Is The Hunger, and every sentence is thick to me.  I hope you find it penetrating.  

One of the great gifts of God to man is the sense of concern that one individual may develop for another, the impulse toward self-giving that finds its ultimate fulfillment in laying down one’s life for his friend.  It is difficult to keep the sense of concern free from those subtle desires to place another under obligation, and thereby stifle and strangle that which one wishes to bless and heal.  When I ask myself why I try to help others, what reply do I get?  Is it merely an effort on my part to build up my own sense of significance?  Am I trying to prove my own superiority?  When I do something for another which involves a clear definitive act of concern on my part, do I spoil it by saying to myself or to another, “Look what I did for him.  And now he treats me as he does”?  Or do we say, “After all I have done for him, he should do anything I ask of him”?  Is our sense of concern used as a means for gaining power over others?  To be able to give oneself without expecting to be paid back, to love disinterestedly but with warmth and understanding, is to be spiritually mature and godlike and to lay hold on the most precious possessions vouchsafed to the human race.