100 Howard Thurman Quotes on Religion & Justice

We’ve collected a list of 100 Howard Thurman quotes to help you understand his life’s philosophy!

Howard Thurman was an American civil rights leader, philosopher, and social justice activist.

His most famous work, Jesus and the Disinherited, had a significant impact on Martin Luther King Jr.

This collection includes quotes from his well-known masterpieces. We hope that you consider his message and apply it to your life.

Begin reading here.

And make sure to check out these Mahatma Gandhi quotes and Henry David Thoreau quotes.

Best Howard Thurman Quotes

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1. “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

2. “During times of war, hatred becomes quite respectable, even though it has to masquerade often under the guise of patriotism.”

3. “Follow the grain in your own wood.”

4. “In the stillness of the quiet, if we listen, we can hear the whisper of the heart giving strength to weakness, courage to fear, hope to despair.”

5. “Whatever may be the tensions and the stresses of a particular day, there is always lurking close at hand the trailing beauty of forgotten joy or unremembered peace.” 

6. “There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.”

7. “A dream is the bearer of a new possibility, the enlarged horizon, the great hope.”

8. “There must be always remaining in every life, some place for the singing of angels, some place for that which in itself is breathless and beautiful.”

9. “Fate is the raw materials of experience. They come uninvited and often unanticipated. Destiny is what a man does with these raw materials.”

10. “There is a quiet courage that comes from an inward spring of confidence in the meaning and significance of life. Such courage is an underground river, flowing far beneath the shifting events of one’s experience, keeping alive a thousand little springs of action.”

11. “In whatever sense this year is a new year for you, may the moment find you eager and unafraid, ready to take it by the hand with joy and gratitude.”

12. “There are two questions that we have to ask ourselves. The first is, ‘Where am I going?,’ and the second is, ‘Who will go with me?’ If you ever get these questions in the wrong order, you are in trouble.”

13. “Love has no awareness of merit or demerit; it has no scale—love loves; this is its nature.”

14. “If a man knows precisely what he can do to you or what epithet he can hurl against you in order to make you lose your temper—your equilibrium—then he can always keep you under subjection.” 

15. “Perfect love is long delayed.” 

Inspirational Howard Thurman Quotes

16. “It is true that in the hands of a man like Hitler, power is exploited and turned to ends which make for havoc and misery; but this should not cause us to ignore the basic soundness of the theory upon which he operated.”

17. “Keep fresh before me the moments of my high resolve.”

18. “To love is to make one’s heart a swinging door.”

19. “Human life is one, and all men are members of one another.”

20. “Growth always involves the risk of failure.”

21. “Do not be silent; there is no limit to the power that may be released through you.”

22. “Do what is on fire inside of you. More often than anything else, the world needs persons who are on fire.”

23. “It blinds the individual to all values of worth, even as they apply to himself and to his fellows. Hatred bears deadly and bitter fruit. It is blind and nondiscriminating.”

24. “Often, to be free means the ability to deal with the realities of one’s own situation so as to not be overcome by them.”

25. “Commitment means that it is possible for a man to yield the nerve center of his consent to a purpose or cause, a movement or an ideal, which may be more important to him than whether he lives or dies.”

26. “Keep alive the dream; for as long as a man has a dream in his heart, he cannot lose the significance of living.”

27. “At the core of life is a hard purposefulness, a determination to live.”

28. “Twilight—a time of pause when nature changes her guard. All living things would fade and die from too much light or too much dark if twilight were not.”

29. “A man is a man, no more, no less. The awareness of this fact marks the supreme moment of human dignity.”

30. “You can’t stand in the midst of the world and struggle for fundamental change unless you are standing in your own space and looking for change within.”

Howard Thurman Quotes About God and Christian Living

31. “Prayer is a form of communication between God and man and man and God. I am always impressed by the fact that it is recorded that the only thing that the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to do was to pray.”

32. “It cannot be denied that too often the weight of the Christian movement has been on the side of the strong and the powerful and against the weak and oppressed—this, despite the gospel.”

33. “Jesus rejected hatred because he saw that hatred meant death to the mind, death to the Spirit, and death to communion with his Father. He affirmed life, and hatred was the great denial.”

34. “As a seagull lays in the wind current, so I lay myself into the Spirit of God.”

35. “Listen to the long stillness: New life is stirring, new dreams are on the wing, new hopes are being readied. Humankind is fashioning a new heart. Humankind is forging a new mind. God is at work. This is the season of Promise.”

36. “Living in a climate of deep insecurity, Jesus, faced with so narrow a margin of civil guarantees, had to find some other basis upon which to establish a sense of well-being.”

37. “Of course, God cares for the grass of the field, which lives a day and is no more, or the sparrow that falls unnoticed by the wayside. He also holds the stars in their appointed places, leaves his mark in every living thing.”

38. “They who seek God with all their hearts must, however, someday on their way meet Jesus.”

39. “In the face of all the uncertainties that surround any decision, the wise man acts in the light of his best judgment illumined by the integrity of his profoundest spiritual insights.”

40. “There would be room for all, and no man would be a threat to his brother. The kingdom of God is within. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor.”

41. “You must lay your lives on the altar of social change so that wherever you are, there the kingdom of God is at hand!” 

42. “It’s a miracle when one man, standing in his place, is able—while remaining there—to put himself in another man’s place. To send his imagination forth to establish a beachhead in another man’s spirit, and from that vantage point so to blend with the other’s landscape that what he sees and feels is authentic. To experience this is to be rocked to one’s foundations.”

43. “Wherever man has this sense of the Eternal in his spirit, he hunts for it in his home, in his work, among his friends, in his pleasures, and in all the levels of his function.”

44. “Then the rest is in the hands of the future and in the mind of God. The possibility of error, of profound and terrible error, is at once the height and the depth of man’s freedom. For this, God be praised!”

45. “It is my simple faith that this is the kind of universe that sustains that kind of adventure, and what we see dimly now in the churning confusion and chaos of our tempestuous times will someday be the common experience of all the children of men everywhere.”

Deep Howard Thurman Quotes on Life

46. “To love life truly is to be whole in all one’s parts, and to be whole in all one’s parts is to be free and unafraid.”

47. “And this is the strangest of all paradoxes of the human adventure; we live inside all experience, but we are permitted to bear witness only to the outside. Such is the riddle of life and the story of the passing of our days.”

48. “The hard thing when you get old is to keep your horizons open.”

49. “A bigot is a person who makes an idol of his commitments.”

50. “The first part of your life everything is in front of you, all your potential and promise. But over the years, you make decisions; you carve yourself into a given shape. Then, the challenge is to keep discovering the green growing edge.”

51. “Because life is dynamic and we are deeply alive, the end of the year can only mean the end of the year, not the end of life, not the end of us, not even the end of time.”

52. “The movement of the Spirit of God in the hearts of men and women often calls them to act against the spirit of their times or causes them to anticipate a spirit which is yet in the making. In a moment of dedication, they are given wisdom and courage to dare a deed that challenges and to kindle a hope that inspires.”

53. “Life wears down the edges of the mind.”

54. “But, the need for the heart is a room for peace—peace of spirit that filters through all confusion and robs them of power.”

55. “When all hope for a release in this world seems unrealistic and groundless, the heart turns to a way of escape beyond the present order.”

Powerful Howard Thurman Quotes on Fear

56. “When the basis of such fear is analyzed, it is clear that it arises from a sense of isolation and helplessness in the face of varied dimensions of violence to which the underprivileged are exposed.”

57. “He who fears is delivered to destruction.”

59. “Fear is one of the persistent hounds of hell that dog the footsteps of the poor, the dispossessed, the disinherited. There is nothing new or recent about fear—it is doubtless as old as the life of man on the planet.”

59. “It is what is feared by the rabbit, that cannot ultimately escape the hounds.”

60. “Fears are of many kinds—fear of objects, then there is fear which has to do with aspects of experience and detailed states of mind.”

Howard Thurman Quotes That Will Make You Think

61. “Always, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of human beings ebbing and flowing like the tides of the sea.”

62. “A man’s horizon may become so completely dominated by the intense character of his hatred, that there remains no creative residue in his mind and to give to great ideas, to great concepts.”

63. “The measure of a man’s estimation of your strength is the kind of weapons he feels that he must use in order to hold you fast in a prescribed place.”

64. “Christmas is waiting to be born: In you, in me, in all mankind.”

65. “Deep from within that order he projected a dream, the logic of which would give to all the needful security.”

66. “If a man is convinced that he is safe only as long as he uses his power to give others a sense of insecurity, then the measure of their security is in his hands. If security or insecurity is at the mercy of a single individual or group, then control of behavior becomes routine. All imperialism functions in this way.”

67. “The basic fact is that Christianity, as it was born in the mind of this Jewish thinker and teacher, appears as a technique of survival for the oppressed.”

68. “Christmas is a mood, a quality, a symbol. It is never merely a fact.”

69. “When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone, when the kings and princes are home when the shepherds are back with their flock. The work of Christmas begins—to find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner, to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among brothers, to make music in the heart.”

70. “I will light candles this Christmas—candles that will burn all year long.”

71. “There is a certain grandeur and nobility in administering to another’s need out of one’s fullness and plenty.”

72. “Community cannot long feed on itself, it can only flourish with the coming of others and beyond—their unknown and undiscovered sisters and brothers.”

73. “In the wake of the decision, yes, even as a part of the decision itself, energy is released. The act of decision sweeps all before it, and the life of the individual may be changed forever.”

74. “He recognized with authentic realism that anyone who permits another to determine the quality of his inner life gives into the hands of the other the keys to his destiny.”

75. “The radical tension between good and evil, as man sees it and feels it, does not have the last word about the meaning of life and the nature of existence.”

Howard Thurman Quotes That Will Pique Your Curiosity

76. “It may be something very simple and inconsequential in itself. But, it stabs awake, it alarms, it disturbs. In a flash, one gets a vivid picture of oneself, and it passes. The result is decision—sharp, definitive decision.”

77. “The Christian Church has tended to overlook its Judaic origins, but the fact is that Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew of Palestine when he went about his Father’s business, announcing the acceptable year of the Lord.”

78. “The youth had lost their sense of belonging. They did not count; there was no center of hope for their marginal egos. According to my friend, Hitler told them, ‘No one loves you—I love you; no one will give you work—I will give you work; no one wants you—I want you.”

79. “Then, he would go on to show how it was God’s will that we were slaves and how, if we were good and happy slaves, God would bless us. I promised my Maker that if I ever learned to read and if freedom ever came, I would not read that part of the Bible.”

80. “Too often the price exacted by society for security and respectability is that the Christian movement in its formal expression must be on the side of the strong against the weak.”

81. “Mere preaching is not enough. What are words, however sacred and powerful, in the presence of the grim facts of the daily struggle to survive? Any attempt to deal with this situation on a basis of values that disregard the struggle for survival appears to be in itself a compromise with life.”

82. “A profound piece of surgery has to take place in the very psyche of the disinherited before the great claim of the religion of Jesus can be presented.”

83. “In the presence of an overwhelming sincerity on the part of the disinherited, the dominant themselves are caught with no defense. They are thrown back upon themselves for their rating.”

84. “If I were to ask you what is the thing that you desire most in life this afternoon, you would say a lot of things off the top of your head, most of which you wouldn’t believe but you would think that you were saying the things that I thought you ought to think that you should say.”

85. “Nothing less than a great daring in the face of overwhelming odds can achieve the inner security in which fear cannot possibly survive.”

86. “The opposition to those who work for social change does not come only from those who are the guarantors of the status quo. Again and again, it has been demonstrated that the lines are held by those whose hold on security is sure only as long as the status quo remains intact.” 

87. “There were long stretches where each of us was engaged in a private world of rapidly shifting vignettes.”

88. “Above and beyond all else it must be borne in mind that hatred tends to dry up the springs of creative thought in the life of the hater, so that his resourcefulness becomes completely focused on the negative aspects of his environment. The urgent needs of the personality for creative expression are starved to death.”

89. “What I have written is but a fleeting intimation of the outside of what one man sees and may tell about the path he walks. No one shares the secret of a life; no one enters into the heart of the mystery.”

90. “Tremendous skill and power must be exercised to show the disinherited the awful results of the role of negative deception into which their lives have been cast. How to do this is perhaps the greatest challenge that the religion of Jesus faces in modern life.”

More Howard Thurman Quotes

91. “It is only when people live in an environment in which they are not required to exert supreme effort into just keeping alive that they seem to be able to selects ends besides those of mere physical survival.”

92. “There is a spirit in man and in the world working always against the thing that destroys and lays waste.”

93. “I think that if you were stripped to whatever there is in you that is literal and irreducible, and you tried to answer that question, the answer may be something like this: I want to feel that I am thoroughly and completely understood so that now and then I can take my guard down and look out around me and not feel that I will be destroyed with my defenses down.” 

94. “The effective possibility of a vital religious fellowship which is so creative in character, so convincing in quality that it inspires the mind to multiply experiences of unity—which experiences of unity become over and over and over again more compelling than the concepts, the ways of life, the sects, and creeds that separate men.”

95. “Despite all the positive psychological attributes of hatred we have outlined, hatred destroys finally the core of the life of the hater. While it lasts, burning in white heat, its effect seems positive and dynamic. But, at last, it turns to ash, for it guarantees a final isolation from one’s fellows.”

96. “Again and again, I am aware that the light not only illuminates but it also burns.”

97. “I want to feel completely vulnerable, completely naked, completely exposed, and absolutely secure.”

98. “Only a woman becomes a part of the experience of creation; only she sees the perimeter of the self fade into the life force and reappear, and again fade and reappear. She knows a secret that the father can never quite experience.”

99. “I say that creeds, dogmas, and theologies are inventions of the mind.”

100. “It is a grievous blunder to assume that understanding is always sympathetic.”

What Insightful Lessons Did You Learn From Howard Thurman?

Howard Thurman didn’t live a carefree and smooth life. He was subjected to various forms of discrimination for many years. 

Later, he was ordained as a Baptist minister and began his ministry at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Ohio. He was also active and well-known in the Boston community, where he had an impact on many leaders.

For Thurman, in every oppression we face, we should fight in a righteous manner. Allow God’s powerful words of wisdom to be your shield!

Which of these quotes are your favorites? Do you have any other quotes by Howard Thurman you’d like to add? Share them below!