Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits

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Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits (March 13, 1847) by Søren Kierkegaard, copyright 1993 by Howard Hong, Princeton University Press. This book was originally published as Edifying Discourses and was changed to Upbuilding Discourses in 1993 by Howard V Hong.

On the Occasion of a Confession[edit]

  • Regret must be an action with a collected mind, so it can be spoken about for upbuilding, so it may of itself give birth to new life, so that it does not become an event whose mournful legacy is a sorrowful mood; repentance in the sense of freedom with the stamp of eternity must have its time, yes, even its time for preparation.
    • Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits p. 16
  • Change was what he called for when pleasure served him- change, change: and change was what he called for when he arrived at the limits of pleasure, when the servants were exhausted-change, change!
    • Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits p. 26-27
  • So go with God to God. Continually take that one step more, that one step, which even the person who cannot move a limb can take, the one step that even the confined prisoner, even the chained prisoner whose foot is not free can take – and in the decision you are with the good. No one, not even the greatest person who has ever lived, can do more then you.
    • Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits p. 104
  • For many people it seems impossible to unite freedom and suffering in the same thought.
    • Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits p. 117

What We Learn From the Lilies in the Field and From the Birds of the Air[edit]

  • Prayer: Father in heaven! From you come only good and perfect gifts. It must also be beneficial to comply with the counsel and teaching of whomever you have appointed as a teacher of human beings, as a counselor to the worried. Grant, then, that the one who is worried may truly learn from the divinely appointed teachers: the lilies in the field and the birds of the air! Amen.
  • Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits p. 157

To Be Contented with Being a Human Being[edit]

  • In this discourse, then, let us consider how by properly looking at the lilies in the field and at the birds in the air the worried person learns: to be contented with being a human being. “Look at the lilies in the field,” look at them-that is pay close attention to them, make them the object-not of a fleeting glimpse in passing but of your consideration.
    • Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits p. 162

How Glorious It Is to Be a Human Being[edit]

  • When the eyes are staring, they are looking fixedly ahead, are continually looking at one thing, and yet they are not actually seeing, because, as science explains, the eyes see their own seeing. But when the physician says: Move your eyes. And thus the Gospel says: Divert your mind-look down at the lily and quit staring at the worry.
    • Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits p. 184
  • Allow us to mention a great example who actually can be said to have honored what it means to work-the Apostle Paul. If anyone at all might have wished the whole day to be twice as long-then certainly Paul; if anyone at all could have given every hour great meaning for many-then certainly Paul; if anyone at all could easily have been supported by the congregations-then certainly Paul; and yet he preferred to work with his own hands!
    • Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits p. 199

What Blessed Happiness is Promised in Being a Human Being[edit]

  • But the proper beginning begins with seeking God’s kingdom first; thus it begins expressly by letting the world perish. What a difficult beginning! How this earthly life begins for a human being we cannot say for sure; it was begun unnoticed, and a human being avoids the difficulty of the beginning. But living for the eternal begins with seeking God’s kingdom first. There is no time to amass a fortune beforehand, no time to deliberate on this question; there is no time to lay up a penny beforehand, because the beginning is: to seek God’s kingdom first.
    • Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits p. 210

The Gospel of Sufferings, Christian Discourses[edit]


  • These Christian discourses (which in more than one respect are not, and thus for more than one reason are not called, sermons) are not intended “to fill an idle moment for inquisitiveness.” If, however, just one single sufferer, who perhaps is also going astray in many thoughts, should by means of them find a heavy moment lighter, should find in them a trail leading through the many thoughts, then the author will not regret his intention with them. It is “The Gospel of Sufferings,” not as though the subject were exhausted by these discourses but because each discourse is a draught of this, praise God, inexhaustible supply, not as though the particular discourse were exhaustive but because each discourse still drinks deeply enough to find the joy. S.K. p. 215

What Meaning and What Joy There Are in the Thought of Following Christ[edit]

  • Just as the name of Christ is the one and only name in heaven and on earth, so also is Christ the one and only predecessor who has gone ahead in this way. Between heaven and earth there is only one road: to follow Christ. In time and eternity there is only one choice, one single choice: to choose this road. There is only one eternal hope on this earth: to follow Christ into heaven. There is one blessed joy in this life: to follow Christ; in death there is one final blessed joy-to follow Christ to life!
    • Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits p. 229

But How Can the Burden Be Light If the Suffering Is Heavy?[edit]

  • If a girl femininely has just one single wish, alas, but hidden in hopelessness, she can then say: It is impossible. This utterance can signify that she has become apathetic, that she wants to go to bed, wants to sleep off her wish, to sleep herself into oblivion; it can signify that she no longer wants to hide her wish in hopelessness.
  • We have now discussed how the Christian carries the heavy burden lightly, how he is not different from others by being exempted from the burden but is Christian in carrying it lightly. The one who carries the beneficial yoke, and the one who heavily burdened, carries the light burden-that one is a Christian.
    • Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits p. 245-246

The Joy of It That the School of Sufferings Educates for Eternity[edit]

  • If one imagined a crowd of young people, each one wishing, one would find out by means of the wishes to what extent there was something deeper in the individual’s soul, because there is no mirror as accurate as the wish. Although in other respects a mirror sometimes flatters the person looking into it, shows him different from what he actually is, we must say that the wish, aided by possibility, flatteringly beguiles him to disclose himself entirely as he is, beguiles him to look exactly like himself.
    • Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits p. 248-249

The Joy of It That in Relation to God a Person Always Suffers as Guilty[edit]

  • Guilty? Not guilty? This is the earnest question in legal proceedings.
    • Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits p. 265-266
  • Life issues from the heart, and if a person’s heart suffers damage, then by his own fault there is no longer any task for him except the sedulous toil of sin and emptiness; but from the heart of God issues the life in everything, the life in the tasks. If it is so that the creature must die if God withdraws his breath, then it is also true that if God for one single moment has denied his love, then all tasks are dead and reduced to nothing, and hopelessness is the only thing there is.
    • Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits p. 277

The Joy of It That It Is Not the Road That Is Hard but That Hardship Is the Road[edit]

  • There is an authorized language a universal, generally accepted metaphor that compares life to a road.
    • Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits p. 289
  • The greatest difficulty seems to be just to get the task firmly set or actually to get set firmly on what the task is.
    • Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits p. 292-294
  • If someone wants to walk without hardships, he can, of course, do so; but then he also walks along another road-which is his business. But doubt cannot seize hold of the sufferer and make him doubtful with the thought that others are walking along the same road without hardships.
    • Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits p. 298-299

The Joy of It That the Happiness of Eternity Still Outweighs Even the Heaviest Temporal Suffering[edit]

  • Spiritually understood, temporality and eternity are two magnitudes that are to be weighed.
    • Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits p. 306-307
  • Luther has said somewhere that a Christian has to wear the royal court dress of the cross, but I wonder if a Christian ought not also to be practiced in speaking, and to practice so as to be able to speak, the heavenly court language with all his heart. Gabbily to gush about the glory of eternal happiness is empty and foolish talk, but with closed lips, as it were, instead of speaking directly about eternal happiness, by speaking in another way about one’s hardships in life, to show that one is speaking about eternal happiness-that is the language of the royal court.
    • Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits p. 316

The Joy of It That Bold Confidence Is Able in Suffering to Take Power from the World and Has the Power to Change Scorn into Honor, Downfall into Victory[edit]

  • Paganism wanted to treat the Christians as criminals, and then (as several of the Church fathers so clearly and penetratingly spelled out) it wanted them to admit and confess, not their guilt, as is otherwise the case with criminals, but on the contrary demanded of the Christians that he confess that he was not a Christian.
    • Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits p 322-323
  • If you are perhaps suffering for a conviction, or if you are preparing to suffer for a conviction, or if you are seriously considering what can happen to a person, then rejoice for a moment in the joy that it was the theme of this discourse; but do not make a mistake, do not indulge in the joy. Instead, earnestly strive to win bold confidence before God and then the joy will come all the more richly to you. A conviction is not something one should rush to bring out in the world. Alas, much confusion has been created and great harm done because an immature person has brought out an immature conviction. No, just allow the conviction to grow quietly, but let it grow together with bold confidence before God. Then, whatever danger befalls you, you will be convinced of what bold confidence is able to do.
    • Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits p 341

Quotes about Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits[edit]

  • Many readers are likely to agree with the observation of the Danish scholar Eduard Geismar on Part One of Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits: “I am of the opinion that nothing of what he has written is to such a degree before the face of God. Anyone who really wants to understand Kierkegaard does well to begin with it.”
    • Howard V. Hong, Historical Introduction, (Eduard Geismar, Soren Keirkegaard, hans Livsudvikling of Forfatterviksomhed, I-VI (Copenhagen 1927), V, p. 11) p. xiv

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