25 Howard Thurman Quotes That Helped Shape a Movement

These Howard Thurman quotes educate us on life, God, fate, and so much more.

Howard Thurman had an active role in organizing and leading many social movements.

He was also an American author, philosopher, theologian, and educator.

This background helped shape his radical nonviolent approach to change, mentoring people like Martin Luther King, Jr. Thurman and Dr. King’s dads were classmates in college.

What can you learn from Howard Thurman?

He was influenced by his grandma, who was enslaved on a plantation in Florida.

Both his mom and grandma were active members of the local church community.

Sadly, his father passed away when he was young.

He had to attend high school over a hundred miles from where he lived because only three high schools in Florida accepted black students.

Sadly, this wasn’t hundreds of years ago, but rather in 1913.

If you enjoy this article, check out our most popular quote article, a list of short inspirational quotes for daily motivation. 

Browse our entire collection of inspirational quotes for more motivating ideas and concepts.

Howard Thurman quotes about life

1. “Life wears down the edges of the mind.” — Howard Thurman

2. “At the core of life is a hard purposefulness, a determination to live.” — Howard Thurman

3. “There must be always remaining in every life, someplace for the singing of angels, someplace for that which in itself is breathless and beautiful.” — Howard Thurman

4. “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.” — Howard Thurman

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

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6. “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.” — Howard Thurman

7. “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.” — Howard Thurman

8. “The hard thing when you get old is to keep your horizons open. 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.” — Howard Thurman

Howard Thurman quotes about God and Jesus

9. “Christmas is a mood, a quality, a symbol. It is never merely a fact.” — Howard Thurman

10. “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.” — Howard Thurman

11. “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.” — Howard Thurman

12. “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.” — Howard Thurman

13. “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.” — Howard Thurman

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14. “I will light candles this Christmas, candles of joy, despite all sadness, Candles of hope where despair keeps watch. Candles of courage where fear is ever-present, candles of peace for tempest-tossed days, Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens. Candles of love to inspire all my living, Candles that will burn all the year long.” — Howard Thurman

15. “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.” — Howard Thurman

Howard Thurman quotes on the importance of fate, silence, and dreams

16. “Follow the grain in your own wood…” — Howard Thurman

17. “A dream is the bearer of a new possibility, the enlarged horizon, the great hope.” — Howard Thurman

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

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

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

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

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22. “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.” — Howard Thurman

23. “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.” — Howard Thurman

24. “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.” — Howard Thurman

25. “The years, the months, the days, and the hours have flown by my open window. Here and there an incident, a towering moment, a naked memory, an etched countenance, a whisper in the dark, a golden glow these and much more are the woven fabric of the time I have lived.” — Howard Thurman

What did you learn from these Howard Thurman quotes?

Howard Thurman would go on and graduate from college as valedictorian.

A few years later, he became an ordained Baptist minister.

He graduated from Rochester Theological Seminary in May 1926, again as valedictorian of his class.

He was the dean of various collegiate chapels until starting his own church, The Church of the Fellowship of all Peoples, in 1944.

Throughout his life, he wrote twenty books on the topic of theology, religion, and philosophy.

His most notable work was Jesus and the Disinherited, which he published in 1949.

Thurman used the book as a way to explore Jesus through the views of those being oppressed, which Dr. King read during the Montgomery bus boycott. 

Life magazine ranked Thurman among the twelve most influential religious leaders in the United States in 1953.

His work, as seen in some of these quotes, inspired generations of change through nonviolent responses.

Feel free to leave any other Howard Thurman quotes and sayings you like from his books in the comments below!

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