Up above my study door there is a text. It’s not from the Bible. It’s from the writings of Reinhold Niebuhr, a magnificent scholar to whom I owe a great deal. There is a particular statement of his that I have had above my study for many years. When someone does this it means not only that that statement has spoken to his or her life, but that it continues to do so year after year. The other reason that I wryly mention is that in senior years you don’t dare mount a ladder to take it down! However, it remains above the door because it speaks to me, and I have found it true.
The quote is from a piece of political reflection that Reinhold wrote about the late 1930s or early 40s. He was speaking about wisdom as being, not solving all the contradictions and problems we come across in life, but rather the achievement of serenity while still inescapably caught in them.
Here are Neibuhr’s words:
Nothing that is ever worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by HOPE.
Nothing which is beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by FAITH.
Nothing we do, however virtuous can be accomplished alone; therefore, we must be saved by LOVE.
No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint; therefore, we must be saved by the final form of love which is FORGIVENESS.
Much has passed in my life but those words have remained. I think they are magnificent.
Photo Credit: Akarawut Lochacharoenvanich