Quotes from
Disciplines of the Spirit

The meaning of commitment as a discipline of the spirit must take into account that mind and spirit cannot be separated from the body in any absolute sense.  (17)

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.  (17)

The fact that strawberries are a delight to taste, and nutritious, while poison ivy is irritating and disturbing to man, is beside the point.  It is rightly observed that life does not take consequences into account.  Each plant meets the conditions for life, and each is supported and sustained. (18)

What is against life will be destroyed by life, for what is against life is against God.  Nevertheless, there is a time interval when nothing is in evidence that can distinguish the quality or integrity of an evil commitment from a good one.  (18)

Whatever roadblocks appear, the individual must remove them.  (19)

We live in a universe that is responsive to an ultimate urgency. The secret is to be able to want one thing, to seek one thing, to organize the resources of one's life around a single end; and slowly, surely, the life becomes one with that end.  (26)

It may be that only in the experience of commitment is an authentic sense of self born.  (26

There are three questions an individual must ask himself, and in his answers he will find the meaning of commitment for himself: Who am I?  What do I want?  How do I propose to get it?  (26)

Within us all are so many claims and counterclaims that to honor the true self is not easy.  (27)

The miracle of the experience of commitment is that it draws together all the elements of a an from the many regions of the self and gives them back to him in a single whole.  In answering the question, "Who am I?" he may be able to say only this: "I am not sure who I am, but I have given all of me that I can find to the pursuit of this consuming purpose, and the answer to the question is beginning to make itself known, even to me.  (29)

"Come and see a man who knows me better than I know myself, who has given my life in all its fragments back to me as a single whole."  This is infinitely more miraculous than walking on water or turning water into wine.  (29)

We tend to hesitate to expose ourselves to great and tragic human need or to challenging issues, because we do not want to give up the emotional security of being able to take refuge behind or within some fragment of the self.  The only way we can be made whole in commitment is by finding something big enough to demand our all. (30)

The glory of any challenge is the fact that it is a challenge.  We have only contempt, in the end, for the task that requires no real effort.  (31)

It is a terrible truth that some errors of choice do not show up until after a life has been lived.  (33)

Our dreams must be saddled with the hard facts of our world and our experiencing before we ride them off to fulfillment among the stars.  (45)

To discover that thought is private and that there is a world of meanings, feelings and ideas the belong to oneself [sic] alone is the clue to man's ability to be creative and think creatively.  (47)

To experience one's own mind is to begin the long journey to discover what, after all, the individual ultimately is.  (48)

. . . [A]ny understanding of what is meant by a mistake, an error, a wrong choice, must extend the notion of responsibility beyond what binds a man to the deed flowing from his decisions.  It must include his responsibility for how he deals with the responsibility for his deeds.  (57, emphasis Thurman's)

To be victimized by error and at the same time keep on making choices in integrity is to grow in grace.  And for the religious man, it is to grow not only in grace but also in the knowledge and experience of God.  (58)

In short, a man may fail because he is a victim of circumstances.  If he is able to keep on trying, to keep on working at it, the discipline will help him to make one of the great discoveries of the human spirit: that there is sometimes a radical difference between failure and being mistaken or in error in one's choices.  There is no harder lesson to learn in the spiritual life than the fact that the results belong to God.  (60)