Four Upbuilding Discourses, 1844

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Four Upbuilding Discourses is a 1844 work by Søren Kierkegaard published August 31, 1844.



As translated in Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Soren Kierkegaard 1843-1844 (1990) by Howard V. Hong


  • this little book […] seeks that single individual whom I with joy and gratitude call my reader, in order to pay him a visit, indeed, to stay with him, because one goes to the person one loves, makes one’s home with him, and remains with him if this is allowed.
    • p. 295

To Need God Is a Human Being's Highest Perfection

  • “A person needs only a little in order to live and needs that little only a little while”-this is a high minded proverb that is worthy of being received and understood as it wants to be understood; it is too earnest to want to be admired as a beautiful expression or an elegant locution. As such it is thoughtlessly used at times: one calls it out to the needy person, perhaps in order to console him in passing, perhaps also just to have something to say; one says it to oneself, even on a lucky day, since the human heart is very deceitful, is all too eager to take high-mindedness in vain and is proud of needing only a little-while using much. One says it to oneself on a day of need, and hurries ahead to welcome oneself admiringly at the goal-when one has accomplished something glorious-but one is as little served thereby as the proverb is.
    • p. 297
  • To be contented with the grace of God! The grace of God is indeed the most glorious of all. We certainly shall not dispute about that, since basically this is every human being’s deepest and most blessed conviction. But very seldom does he think about it and ultimately, if he really wants to be honest, yet without being quite clear himself about what he is doing, he applies to this idea that old proverb: Too little and too much spoil everything. If he were to think the thought in its eternal validity, it would promptly aim a fatal blow at all his worldly thinking, aspiring, and pursuing, turn everything upside down, and this he cannot long endure. Then he relapses to the low level of the worldly, to his ordinary conversation and way of thinking.
    • p. 300
  • With respect to the earthly, one needs little, and to the degree that one needs less, the more perfect one is. A pagan who knew how to speak only of the earthly has said that the deity is blessed because he needs nothing, and next to him the wise man, because he needs little. In a human beings relationship to God, it is inverted: the more he needs God, the more deeply he comprehends that he is in need of God, and then the more he in his need presses forward to God, the more perfect he is. […]it is the saddest thing of all if a human being goes through life without discovering that he needs God.
    • p. 303
  • We do not deny that wanting in all earnestness to understand what a person does not yet understand earnestly enough-if he wants to seek his own way to this consciousness and not leave it to God, who knows best how to alarm all self-confidence out of a person and keep him, when he is about to sink into his own nothingness, from maintaining by himself the diver’s connection with the earthly-we do not deny that wanting in all earnestness to understand this makes life difficult. Let us just admit it without thereby becoming so discouraged or cowardly that we want to sleep our way to what others have had to work for; let us not take it in vain when the believer enthusiastically declares that all his suffering is only brief and short, that the yoke of self-denial is beneficial, that the cross of sufferings ennobles a person more than anything else, and let us hope to God that someday we shall come so far that we, too, are able to speak enthusiastically. Let us not demand this too early, lest the believer’s zealous words discourage us because this does not occur immediately.
    • p. 305
  • To external observation, many may well be the most glorious creation, but all his glory is still only in the external and for the external: does not the eye aim its arrow outward every time passion and desire tighten the bowstring, does not the hand grasp outward, is not his arm stretched out, and is not his ingenuity all-conquering!
    • p. 308
  • But if he nevertheless is unwilling to be an instrument of war in the service of inexplicable drives, indeed, in the service of the world, because the world itself, the object of his craving, stimulates the drive; if he nevertheless does not want to be like a stringed instrument in the hands of inexplicable moods or, rather, in the hands of the world, because the movement of the soul is in accord with the way the world plucks its strings; if he does not want to be like a mirror in which he intercepts the world or, rather, the world reflects itself; if he does not want this, if he himself, even before the eye aims at something to make a conquest, wants to capture the eye so that it may belong to him and not he to the eye; if he grasps the hand before it grasps for the external, so that it may belong to him and not he to the hand; if he wants this so earnestly that he is not afraid of tearing out the eye, cutting off the hand, shutting the window of the senses if necessary-well, then everything is changed: the power is taken away from him, and the glory. He struggles not with the world but with himself.
    • p. 308-309
  • Did not Moses go as the Lord’s envoy to the wicked people in order to free them from themselves, from their servile mentality, and from their servile condition under the tyrant’s yoke? Compared with what are called the works of Moses, what is the deed of even the greatest hero; what are demolishing mountains and filling rivers compared with having darkness fall upon all Egypt? But these were really only Moses’ so-called works, because he was capable of nothing at all and the work was the Lord’s. See the difference here. Moses-he is not making decisions and formulating plans while the council of the commonsensical listens attentively because the leader is the wisest-Moses is capable of nothing at all.
    • p. 311
  • If this view, that to need God is man’s highest perfection, makes life more difficult, it does this only because it wants to view man according to his perfection and bring him to view himself in this way, because in and through this view man learns to know himself. And for the person who does not know himself, his life is, in the deeper sense; indeed a delusion. But such a delusion is rarely due to a person’s not discovering the capabilities entrusted to him, to his not trying to develop them as much as possible in conformity with his given situation.
    • p. 312
  • The more profound self-knowledge begins with what someone who is unwilling to understand it might call a shocking delusion: instead of becoming the master, to become one in need; instead of being capable of all things, to be capable of nothing at all. Ah, how difficult it is at this point not to fall into dreams again and to dream that one is doing this by one’s own power.
    • p. 314
  • When a person turns and faces himself in order to understand himself, he steps, as it were, in the way of that first self, halts that which was turned outward in hankering for and seeking after the surrounding world that is its object, and summons it back from the external. In order to prompt the first self to this withdrawal, the deeper self lets the surrounding world remain what it is-remain dubious. This is indeed the way it is; the world around us is inconstant and can be changed into the opposite at any moment, and there is not one person who can force this change by his own might or by the conjuration of his wish. The deeper self now shapes the deceitful flexibility of the surrounding world in such a way that it is no longer attractive to the first self. Then the first self either must proceed to kill the deeper self, to render it forgotten, whereby the whole matter is given up; or it must admit that the deeper self is right, because to want to predicate constancy of something that continually changes is indeed a contradiction, and as soon as one confesses that it changes, it can of course, change in that same moment. However much that first self shrinks from this, there is no wordsmith so ingenious or no thought-twister so wily that he can invalidate the deeper self’s eternal claim. There is only one way out, and that is to silence the deeper self by letting the roar of inconstancy drown it out.
    • p. 314
  • There is danger afoot-both of them, both the first self and the deeper self, notice it, and the latter sits there as concerned as the experienced pilot, while a secret council is held on whether it is best to throw the pilot overboard since he is creating a contrary wind. That, however, does not happen, but what is the outcome? The first self cannot move from the spot, and yet, yet it is clear that the moment of joy is in a hurry, that fortune is already in flight. Therefore people do indeed say that if one does not make use of the moment at once, it is soon too late. And who is to blame? Who else but the deeper self? But even this scream does not help. What kind of unnatural condition is this? What does it all mean?
    • p. 316
  • When the first self submits to the deeper self, they are reconciled and walk on together.
    • p. 316
  • In the external world, he is capable of nothing; but in the internal world, is he not capable of anything there, either? If a capability is actually to be a capability, it must have opposition, because if it has no opposition, then it is either all-powerful or something imaginary. But if he is supposed to have opposition, from whence is it supposed to come? In the internal world the opposition can only come from himself. Then he struggles with himself in the internal world, not as previously, where the deeper self struggled with the first self to prevent it from being occupied with the external. If a person does not discover this conflict, his understanding is faulty and consequently his life is imperfect; but if he does discover it, then he will once again understand that he himself is capable of nothing at all. Every time a person properly comprehends this brief and pithy truth, that he himself is capable of nothing at all, then he knows himself.
    • p. 318-319
  • We sometimes speak of learning to know God from the history of past ages; we take out the chronicles and read and read. Well, that may be all right, but how much time it takes, and how dubious the outcome frequently is, how close at hand the misunderstanding that lies in the sensate person’s marveling over what is ingenious! But someone who is conscious that he is capable of nothing at all has every day and every moment the desired and irrefragable opportunity to experience that God lives. If he does not experience it often enough, he knows very well why that is. It is precisely because his understanding is faulty and he believes himself capable of something.
    • p. 322
  • If a person whose life has been tried in some crucial difficulty has a friend and sometime later he is unable to retain the past clearly, if anxiety creates confusion, and if accusing thoughts assail him with all their might as he works his way back, then he may go to his friend and say, “My soul is sick so that nothing will become clear to me, but I confided everything to you; you remember it, so please explain the past to me again.” But if a person has no friend, he presumably goes to God if under other circumstances he has confided something to him, if in the hour of decision he called God as witness when no one understood him. And the one who went to his friend perhaps was not understood at times, perhaps was filled with self-loathing, which is even more oppressive, upon discovering that the one to whom he had confided his troubles had not understood him at all, even though he had listened, had not sensed what was making him anxious, but had only an inquisitive interest in his unusual encounter with life. But this would never happen with God; who would dare to venture to think this of God, even if he is cowardly enough to prefer to forget God-until he stands face-to-face with the judge, who passes judgment on him but not on the one who truly has God as a witness, because where God is the judge, there is indeed no judge if God is the witness. It by no means follows that a person’s life becomes easy because he learns to know God in this way. On the contrary, it can become very hard; it may become more difficult than the contemptible easiness of sensate human life, but in this difficulty life also acquires ever deeper and deeper meaning.
    • p. 324
  • We are not saying that knowing God or almost sinking into a dreaming admiration and a visionary contemplation of God is the only glorious thing to do; God does not let himself be taken in vain in this way. Just as knowing oneself in one’s own nothingness is the condition for knowing God, so knowing God is the condition for sanctification of a human being by God’s assistance and according to his intention. Wherever God is in truth, there he is always creating. He does not want a person to be spiritually soft and to bathe in the contemplation of his glory, but in becoming known by a person he wants to create in him a new human being.
    • p. 325

The Thorn in the Flesh

  • Since the importance of Holy Scripture is to be an interpreter of the divine to mankind, since its claim is to want to teach the believer everything from the beginning, it follows of itself that its language has shaped the discourse of the God-fearing about the divine, that its words and expressions resound again and again in the holy places, in every more solemn discourse about the divine, whether the speaker seeks to interpret the scriptural text by letting the text speak for itself or is using the scriptural expression in all its brevity as the clear and complete interpretation of the much he has said. But also in everyday and secular speech we sometimes hear a scriptural expression that has wandered from the sacred out into the world … One such biblical expression frequently encountered where least expected and at times put to a most inappropriate use is the phrase just read: the thorn in the flesh.
    • p. 327
  • Has God ever made a covenant with a person regarding the external?
    • p. 330
  • We must warn here against wanting to play the hero, against wanting to be a warrior at one’s own expense, against wanting to be one’s own teacher who determines the degree of suffering and calculates the advantages. We must warn that no one is tried in a self-made conflict but is only cultivated in a new vanity so that the last becomes worse than the first. But then we are also reminded that suffering is a component and no one enters the kingdom of heaven without suffering. Just to be reminded of it is instructive, lest the distress of spiritual trial come upon one as unexpectedly as a thief in the night, as birth pangs to one who had no presentiment of giving birth.
    • p. 331
  • Let everyone test himself. With regard to what he has experienced, let him be true to himself, but let no one forget that blessedness of the spirit and suffering of the spirit are not something external of which one can honestly and truly say: The circumstances of my life did not provide me the opportunity to experience this. In the world of the spirit, there is neither sport nor spook; there luck and chance do not make one person a king, another a beggar, one person as beautiful as an Oriental queen, another more wretched than Lazarus. In the world of the spirit, the only one who is shut out is the one who shuts himself out; in the world of the spirit, all are invited and therefore what is said about it can be said safely and undauntedly; if it pertains to one single individual it pertains to all. Why, then, this curiosity about what God has given every human being the opportunity to experience, indeed, has been made so available that it even may be said: He must have understood it.
    • p. 335
  • Woe to the person who wants to be excused from suffering! That apostolic expression does not indicate only the forsakenness, the suffering of separation, which is even more terrible than the separation of death, since, death only separates a person from the temporal and therefore is a release, whereas this separation shuts him out from the eternal and therefore is an imprisonment that again leaves the spirit sighing in the fragile earthen vessel, in the cramped space, in the status of an alien, because the home of the spirit is in the eternal and the infinite. Four Upbuilding Discourses, 1844 p. 337 (Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses)
  • The eternal fears no future, hopes for no future, but love possesses everything without ceasing, and there is no shadow of variation. As soon as he returns to himself, he understands this no more. He understands what bitter experiences have only all too unforgettably inculcated, the self-accusation, if the past has the kind of claim upon his soul that no repentance can entirely redeem, no trusting in God can entirely wipe out, but only God himself in the inexpressible silence of beatitude. The more of the past a person’s soul can still keep when he is left to himself, the more profound he is.
    • Four Upbuilding Discourses, 1844 p. 338 (Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses)
  • If faith acquired a probability, then everything would be destroyed and faith would be confused, since this would show that it had not performed the preliminary task and therefore has allowed itself to be confounded with thoughtlessness, which comes most easily to the animal.
    • p. 339
  • Bold confidence is a difficult matter, because it is not exactly synonymous with mental weakness. One may very well stop with it and need not go further by even wishing to judge God, that is, if in other respects bold confidence is bold confidence in the judgment, which certainly requires that God’s judgment penetrate the thought and heart, that is, if it is bold confidence in God’s mercy and these words are not a feigned pious expression of one’s own thoughtlessness, which does not trust God but is consoled by having ceased to sorrow long ago. If no human being is capable of acquitting himself he is capable of one thing-of indicting himself so terribly that he cannot acquit himself but learns to need mercy. With regard to this, it is difficult for one person to understand another, because the earnest person always lays the stress on himself.
    • p. 340
  • An old, time-honored, and trustworthy devotional book declares that God deals with a human being as the hunter deals with game: he chases it weary, then he gives it a little time to catch its breath and gather new strength, and then the chase begins again. Woe to the person who wants to build up without knowing the terror; indeed, he does not know what he himself wants! But the person who knows that the terror is there also knows that the relapse is a sign that anxiety’s chase begins again, or if there is no relapse, then there nevertheless is anxiety about it when anxiety borrows the strength of the future. When the past is allowed to remain what it is, the past, when a person leaves it by stepping onto the good path and does not look back too often, he himself is changed little by little, and the past is imperceptibly changed at the same time, and eventually they do not, so to speak, suit each other. The past fades away into a less definite form, becomes a recollection, and the recollection becomes less and less terrifying. Finally the past becomes almost alien to him; he does not comprehend how he could possibly have gone astray in that way, and he hears recollection’s account of it just as the traveler hears a legend in a distant land. But the relapse teaches one to understand how it was possible; indeed, anxiety about the relapse, when it awakens suddenly, even though there is only a moment left, knows how to use it to make everything present, not as a recollection but as something future.
    • p. 344-345
  • We have been speaking about the thorn in the flesh; we have tried to explain the expression in a general sense, that is, in the general sense in which, by pertaining to one single individual, it pertains to all. We have not been particularly concerned about ferreting out what Paul may have particularly had in mind with this expression, and we have desired least of all to ask about it in the sense that someone might ask whether Paul was tall or short, handsome, and the like. We are especially unwilling to suggest the possible accidental something, the possible insignificant something, that may be the single individual’s thorn in the flesh.
    • p. 346

Against Cowardliness

  • If it is really so that there is something in life that has or can have such power over a person that it little by little makes him forget everything that is noble and sacred and makes him a slave in the service of the world, of the moment; if it is really so that time has or can gain such power over a person that while it adds days to his life it also every passing day measures the greater distance of his life from the divine, until he, trapped in everydayness and habit, becomes alienated from the eternal and the original; if experience has taught us that this has also happened to someone who once had a strong sense of the presence of the eternal-then it certainly would be beneficial to recommend every means against this and desirable that the recommending be done in an earnest but also winsome way. God be praised, there are many means, just as the dangers are many, and every one of these means is trustworthy and tested. One such means is resolution or coming to a resolution, because resolution joins a person with the eternal, brings the eternal into time for him, jars him out of the drowsiness of uniformity, breaks the spell of habit, cuts off the tedious bickering of troublesome thoughts, and pronounces a benediction upon even the weakest beginning, when it is indeed a beginning. Resolution is a waking up to the eternal …
    • p. 347
  • let the theater keep what belongs to the theater and the juggling heroes: pretentious words, bold gestures, and the applause of an appraising crowd.
    • p. 348
  • It is humble to admit that the struggle, even through no fault of one’s own, drags out so that every day has its evening, and because of one’s fault drags out in such a way that twilight sometimes falls on defeat. It is humble to admit that even the progress through life of the most honest contender is difficult, that even the person who walks his way with firm steps nevertheless does not walk with a hero’s pace, indeed, that when the evening of life cools the contender after the long day there still is no opportunity for fanfare, since even the person who came closest to the goal does not arrive with the qualifications or the disposition for the rigors of a victory celebration but, weary and worn, desires a grave in which to rest and a blessed departure from here in peace.
    • p. 351
  • Pride and cowardliness are one and the same because what is spoken under the name pride is ordinarily cowardliness. False pride conjures a high conception of one’s own worth. The proud person always wants to do the right thing, the great thing, and he is actually struggling not with people but with God, because he wants to do it with his own power; he does not want to sneak out of something, what he wants is to set the task as high as possible and then to finish it by himself, satisfied with his own consciousness and his own approval. The proud person must concentrate all his thought in order to see the right; he must will it, because he is too proud to admit that people could be in the right in opposition to him, even if no one could convince him of that.
    • p. 354
  • Cowardliness is the most pleasant of all passions; it is not noisy and strident, but quiet and suggestive and yet lustful, it attracts all the passions to itself, since in its association with them it is extremely engaging, knows how to maintain a friendship with them, and buries itself deep in the soul like somnolent vapor of stagnant water, which pestiferous breezes and deceptive phantoms rise, while the vapor still remains. What cowardliness fears most is the making of a resolution, because a resolution always disperses the vapor for a moment. The power cowardliness prefers to conspire with is time, because neither time nor cowardliness finds that there is any reason to hurry.
    • p. 356-357
  • God does not give a spirit of cowardliness but a spirit of power and of love and of self-control, such as is necessary in order to know what is the good, what is truly great and noble, what significance it has for him and in relation to him; in order to love the good with the unselfish love that desires only to be an unworthy servant, which is always love’s delight, and the opposite of it is a violation that pollutes love for him by making it profitable; and in order to maintain constancy, lest everything become unfruitful without the self-control that tempers the effort and the decision of resolution. This acknowledgment, this assent of resolution, is the first dedication. Alas, how rarely a person experiences this in such a way that even merely in the moment of dedication he renounces all dreams and fancies, every mirage that wants to inflate him and cause him to be amazed at himself, and instead receives the power to envision it as it is, the power to embrace it with self-denying love, the power to make the pact of self-control with it! How rarely a person experiences this in such a way that even merely in the hour of dedication he has the power to hold to the good, which seemingly wants to destroy him, the love not to shrink from it, the self-control not to falsify himself.
    • p. 360
  • If the resolution is not the beginning and the beginning the resolution, then the final account can never be rendered, because in a certain sense there is none. If there is no resolution there will be no tower, however imaginary or however really splendid the estimate was! The good resolution is to will to do everything in one’s power, so serve it to the utmost of one’s capability.
    • p. 361
  • Every human being should not just learn by rote but learn very particularly, that he is nothing-which some learn by recognizing that what they are capable of is as good as nothing, others by recognizing that what they are not capable of is as good as nothing but is sufficient to make all their capability essentially nothing. The extensive enterprise can often be dazzling enough, especially when it is not only glorious and lauded by men but beneficial for many, and yet it is only a mirage; the resolution is not the good resolution until the person gives himself and everything up to the good, all his weaknesses, and leaves it up to God. The mirage is due to a person’s becoming a worthy servant in his own eyes, an important instrument, but this is not the good resolution. The good resolution is satisfied with being the unworthy servant. Therefore every person is to test himself.
    • p. 368
  • Cowardliness prevents a person from acknowledging the good that he does do.
    • p. 369
  • When one suffers misjudgment it is easy for one to become more self-important; he does not judge others but he wants his deeds to judge others and in a crafty way. He wants to build up a larger balance with God. He is not content with being an unworthy servant; he wants to be a little more than that.
    • p. 372
  • Is it not a good deed to restrain the arm of someone who wants to commit a misdeed, and is it not also a good deed to restrain the judgment of someone who wants to misjudge and cannot judge otherwise if acknowledgment of the good does not prevent it? Much wrong can be done to a person, but perhaps the worst is to come with belated repentance over a rash, unjust judgment that one nevertheless has oneself helped to occasion. As you can see, if this happens, if a person goes astray in this way by doing the good, he can thank himself and cowardliness, because God gives a spirit of power of love, and of self-control. […] Do not do the good ashamedly and with downcast eyes, as if you were walking a forbidden road, acknowledge it even though you are ashamed because you always feel your own imperfection and lower your eyes before God. Venture it in trust in God. Let each one acknowledge the good, renewed in his resolution, never led astray by any jugglery that it is more difficult to serve the good when one is misjudged. How would it help for it to be more difficult if it was also less true or for it to be more difficult for many if it was easier for him?
    • p. 374-375

One Who Prays Aright Struggles in Prayer and Is Victorious—in That God Is Victorious

  • A random word collects a crowd; the easily bought victory makes them enthusiastic, but the more profound explanation puts them off, and if the price is what it must be in relation to the highest, then mockery gives the signal for retreat and gives the retreat the appearance of a glorious victory. Does not mockery always gain the highest at a bargain price! And yet how despicable to want to think that the price of the highest and most sacred, just like the price of temporal things, should be determined by an accident, by the scarcity or the abundance of the commodity in the country. On the other hand, how upbuilding it is to consider that this is not the case and that someone who fancies that he has bought the highest at a low price is simply mistaken, since the price is always the same. How sure and cheerful and resolute the soul becomes in the thought that no price is too high when that which one is buying is the highest.
    • p. 378-379
  • Without fail, the good has its reward, but if the “reward-hungry” sensate person wanted to do the good for that reason, would he ever put it into practice? No, the soul must make a resolution in renunciation of all calculating, all sagacity and probability; it must will the good because it is good, and then it will certainly perceive that it has its reward; it must continue in duty because it is duty, the then it will thereby really feel the security; it must will to be reconciled with its opponent out of the unreckoning impulse of the heart, and then the good fight of reconciliation will also win for him the affection of the vanquished.
    • p. 380
  • If a person is unwilling to make a decisive resolution, if he wants to cheat God of the heart’s daring venture in which a person ventures way out and loses sight of all shrewdness and probability, indeed, takes leave of his senses or at least all his worldly mode of thinking, if instead of beginning with one step he almost craftily seeks to find out something, to have the infinite certainty changed into a finite certainty, then this discourse will not be able to benefit him. There is an upside-downness that wants to reap before it sows; there is a cowardliness that wants to have certainty before it begins. There is a hypersensitivity so copious in words that it continually shrinks from acting; but what would it avail a person if, double-minded and fork-tongued he wanted to dupe God, trap him in probability, but refused to understand the improbable, that one must lose everything in order to gain everything, and understand it so honestly that, in the most crucial moment, when his soul is already shuddering at the risk, he does not again leap to his own aid with the explanation that he has not yet fully made a resolution but merely wanted to feel his way. Therefore, all discussion of struggling with God in prayer, of the actual loss (since if pain of annihilation is not actually suffered, then the sufferer is not yet out upon the deep, and his scream is not the scream of danger but in the face of danger) and the figurative victory cannot have the purpose of persuading anyone or of converting the situation into a task for secular appraisal and changing God’s gift of grace to the venture into temporal small change for the timorous. It really would not help a person if the speaker, by his oratorical artistry, led him to jump into a half hour’s resolution, by the ardor of conviction started a fire in him so that he would blaze in a momentary good intention without being able to sustain a resolution or to nourish an intention as soon as the speaker stopped talking.
    • Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong, One Who Prays Aright Struggles In Prayer and is Victorious-In That God is Victorious p. 380-381
  • If one person makes comprehensible to another something that is to his advantage in the temporal sense and the latter acts accordingly, then the former may be said to have brought it about. If, however, a person tries to make comprehensible to another his eternal well-being, this does not help straightaway in the same manner, inasmuch as the second still has not grasped the eternal on the basis of what the first said. If, however, he makes the eternal resolution and in it grasps the eternal, then he owes no one anything, not the speaker either.
    • p. 382
  • No human being can give an eternal resolution to another or take it from him; If someone objects to that then one might just as well be silent if there is no probability of winning others, he thereby has merely shown that although his life very likely thrived and prospered in probability and everyone of his undertakings in the service of probability went forward, he has never really ventured and consequently has never had or given himself the opportunity to consider that probability is an illusion, but to venture the truth is what gives human life and the human situation pith and meaning, to venture is the fountainhead of inspiration, whereas probability is the sworn enemy of enthusiasm, the mirage whereby the sensate person drags out time and keeps the eternal away, whereby he cheats God, himself, and his generation: cheats God of the honor, himself of liberating annihilation, and his generation of the equality of conditions."
    • Four Upbuilding Discourses (31 August 1844) in Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses p. 382
  • A person can wrong another human being with his prayer, and prayer in this manner is a terrible weapon between man and man, perhaps the most pernicious. The strong man is warned not to misuse his power against the weak, but the weak man is also warned not to misuse the power of prayer against the strong. It may well be that a tyrant who misused his power, a deceiver who misused his shrewdness, never perpetrated as atrocious a wrong as the one who cowardly and slyly prayed in the wrong place, prayed in order to advance his will, flung himself in to the weakness of prayer, into imploring misery, in order to shatter another person.
    • p. 384
  • If the child sees its mother distressed, it never thinks of tracing the distress back to God as the cause, or that there might be an ambiguity of distress and accordingly that the distress might come from God for the very purpose of drawing the person to God. The child, however, immediately thinks of evil people.
    • p. 385
  • What is the issue of the struggle? That God is goodness? Not at all. That God is love? Not at all. No, it is a matter of making oneself clear to God, of truly explaining to him what is beneficial for the one who is praying, of truly impressing it upon his mind, of truly gaining his consent to the wish. And the struggle is well intentioned toward God, because it is about truly being able to be happy in God, truly being able to give him thanks, truly being able to witness to his honor, truly being able to be assured that all fatherliness lives in heaven, about being truly being able to love him-as people do indeed say when they designate the ultimate, to love as much as one loves God. And the struggler is open toward God, because he dares to testify to himself that he is not a child, does not fragment his soul so that he wishes for one thing this minute and something else the next, so that when the fulfillment arrives he has thoughtlessly forgotten the wish-no, there is only the one. He dares to testify to himself that he is straining all his understanding to become sufficiently foresighted to spy the remotest hint of the fulfillment, that he is straining every thought to conjure forth from the most insignificant event anything it could be hiding, that he welcomes with thanksgiving any hint and invites it to stay. If he catches himself becoming lukewarm and falling away from God, he is not slow to repent and is quick to struggle again in prayer.
    • p. 388-389
  • Faith reads the understanding only as a dark saying; humanly speaking, it does not have the explanation, only in a certain deranged sense, so that, humanly speaking, it is the most foolish business arrangement ever made in the world. But this is the way it is supposed to be, and God in heaven is still unembarrassed; he is not selling out, whatever human beings do. And he is indeed unchanging, as the understanding says in order to mock the troubled one who cries out to God; but see, its mockery recoils on itself, because God truly is unchanged. He has not become a friend of cowardliness and softness; he has not become so debilitated over the years that he cannot distinguish between mine and thine and everything runs together before him; he is himself still the first inventor of language and the only one who holds the blessing in his hands; he is unchanged, even though he would not be able to satisfy the demands of the times! So it is with faith-humanly speaking, it is the most foolish and, humanly speaking, the most difficult business arrangement.
    • p. 395-396
  • Then the Comforter comes with the explanation; then he makes everything new, strips the sufferer of his mourning apparel and gives him a new heart and an assured spirit. It may, however, take time.
    • p. 396
  • The struggle goes on for an explanation, and prayer is the means by which the explanation will correspond to the way he prays about it. One person struggles with all his might against the explanation that would make himself guilty-no, it was all dispensation providence, all from God in order to test, to purify, to try the lover. Another struggles in order that the explanation may explain his guilt to him, so that the passage of freedom will not seem an illusion, but that the chasmic separation of guilt may make the blessedness of reconciliation all the more inward. One person asks that the explanation will unite him to the race and that the explanation will lie in the fate common to all, which is meaningful for the whole, another that the explanation will consider him outside the relation of others in order to select him for solitary pain, but also for solitary election.
    • p. 397
  • imagine a child sitting and drawing with a pencil, drawing whatever occurs to a child, whatever a child recklessly and disconnectedly dashes off; but behind the child stands an invisible artist who guides his hand so that the drawing that is about to become disordered submits to the law of beauty, so that the line that is about to go astray is called back within the boundary of beauty-imagine the child’s amazement! Or imagine that child puts his drawing aside in the evening, but while he sleeps a friendly hand finishes the jumbled and poorly begun sketch-imagine a child’s wonder when he sees his drawing again in the morning! So also with a person; let us never forget that even the more mature person always retains some of the child’s lack of judgment, especially if the prayer is to assist the explanation, not as the essential but as the means.
    • p. 398-399
  • Alas, the debt someone incurs at the gambling table, by throwing dice, in a game of cards, is called a debt of honor; I suppose that because it is meaningless in itself we have to give it an impressive name and then hurry to be rid of it. The debt to God is not a debt of honor like that, but it is, nevertheless, an honor to be in debt to God. It is an honor not to owe fortune anything, but to owe God everything; not to owe fate anything, but to owe providence everything; not to owe caprice anything, but to owe a fatherliness everything.-In this way, he who prays aright struggles in prayer and is victorious in that God is victorious.
    • p. 400

See also