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290 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes on Devotion

1. “If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain how he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.” 

2. “For a man to achieve all that is demanded of him, he must regard himself as greater than he is.” 

3. “Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.” 

4. “One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.” 

5. “If God had wanted me otherwise, He would have created me otherwise.”

6. “A talent can be cultivated in tranquility. A character only in the rushing stream of life.” 

7. “A man sees in the world what he carries in his heart.” 

8. “As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”

9. “Correction does much, but encouragement does more. Encouragement after censure is as the sun after a shower.” 

10. “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”

11. “Which is the best government? That which teaches us to govern ourselves.” 

12. “We are so constituted that we believe the most incredible things, and once they are engraved upon the memory, woe to him who would endeavor to erase them.” 

13. “Doubt can only be removed by action.”

14. “Who is the wisest man? He who neither knows or wishes for anything else than what happens.” 

15. “The person born with a talent they are meant to use will find their greatest happiness in using it.” 

16. “Knowing is not enough—we must apply. Willing is not enough—we must do.”

17. “Enjoy when you can, and endure when you must.”

18. “Magic is believing in yourself. If you can do that, you can make anything happen.”

19. “Every author, in some way, portrays himself in his works, even if it be against his will.”

20. “There is no past that we can bring back by longing for it. There is only an eternally new now that builds and creates itself out of the best, as the past withdraws.”

21. “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”

22. “Everybody wants to be somebody—nobody wants to grow.”

23. “Excellence is rarely found, more rarely valued.”

24. “A person hears only what they understand.”

25. “Kindness is the golden chain by which society is bound together.”

26. “Courage is the commitment to begin without any guarantee of success.”

27. “One cannot develop taste from what is of average quality, but only from the very best.”

28. “In the realm of ideas, everything depends on enthusiasm. In the real world, all rests on perseverance.”

29. “Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward. They may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.”

30. “The soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone.”

31. “Behavior is the mirror in which everyone shows their image.”

32. “There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.”

33. “Nothing is more highly to be prized than the value of each day.”

34. “Music is either sacred or secular. The sacred agrees with its dignity and here has its greatest effect on life—an effect that remains the same through all ages and epochs. Secular music should be cheerful throughout.”

35. “If a man or woman is born 10 years sooner or later, their whole aspect and performance shall be different.”

36. “He is dead in this world who has no belief in another.”

37. “Life is a quarry, out of which we are to mold, and chisel, and complete a character.”

38. “There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.”

39. “Give me the benefit of your convictions, if you have any. But keep your doubts to yourself, for I have enough of my own.”

40. “In praising or loving a child, we love and praise not that which is, but that which we hope for.”

41. “Dream no small dreams, for they have no power to move the hearts of men.”

42. “Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace, and power in it.”

43. “Character—in great and little things—means carrying through what you feel able to do.”

44. “All theory, dear friend, is gray, but the golden tree of life springs evergreen.”

45. “If you wish to know the mind of a man, listen to his words.”

46. “Life is the childhood of our immortality.”

47. “Life belongs to the living, and he who lives must be prepared for changes.”

48. “This is the highest wisdom that I own—freedom and life are earned by those alone, who conquer them each day anew.”

49. “He only earns his freedom and his life who takes them every day by storm.”

50. “The human race is a monotonous affair. Most people spend the greatest part of their time working in order to live, and what little freedom remains so fills them with fear that they seek out any and every means to be rid of it.”

51. “Life teaches us to be less severe with ourselves and others.”

52. “Nothing is worth more than this day.”

53. “The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers, and cities. But to know someone who thinks and feels with us and who, though distant, is close to us in spirit. This makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.”

54. “If you’ve never eaten while crying you don’t know what life tastes like.”

55. “What is not started today is never finished tomorrow.”

56. “Beauty is a manifestation of secret natural laws, which otherwise would have been hidden from us forever.”

57. “Be above it! Make the world serve your purpose, but do not serve it.”

58. “The world remains ever the same.”

59. “What is my life if I am no longer useful to others.”

60. “A useless life is an early death.”

61. “Love does not dominate—it cultivates.”

62. “Love and desire are the spirit’s wings to great deeds.”

63. “If I love you, what business is it of yours?”

64. “We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.”

65. “Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing—a confusion of the real with the ideal never goes unpunished.”

66. “This is the true measure of love—when we believe that we alone can love, that no one could ever have loved so before us and that no one will ever love in the same way after us.”

67. “Sometimes, I don’t understand how another can love her, and is allowed to love her. Since I love her so completely myself, so intensely, so fully, grasp nothing, know nothing, have nothing but her!”

68. “I have so much in me, and the feeling for her absorbs it all—I have so much, and without her, it all comes to nothing.”

69. “To witness two lovers is a spectacle for the gods.”

70. “Girls we love for what they are. Young men for what they promise to be.”

71. “The decline of literature indicates the decline of a nation.”

72. “Music is liquid architecture. Architecture is frozen music.”

73. “The mediator of the inexpressible is the work of art.”

74. “He who possesses art and science has religion—he who does not possess them needs religion.”

75. “God help us—for art is long, and life so short.”

76. “If a man writes a book, let him set down only what he knows. I have guesses enough of my own.”

77. “I bid the chords sweet music make, and all must follow in my wake.”

78. “All the knowledge I possess, everyone else can acquire, but my heart is all my own.”

79. “Thinking is more interesting than knowing but less interesting than looking.”

80. “A collection of anecdotes and maxims is the greatest of treasures for the man of the world, for he knows how to intersperse conversation with the former in fit places and to recollect the latter on proper occasions.”

81. “A man’s manners are a mirror in which he shows his portrait.”

82. “We are never deceived. We deceive ourselves.”

83. “Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is.”

84. “Being brilliant is no great feat if you respect nothing.”

85. “He is happiest—be he king or peasant—who finds peace in his home.”

86. “First and last, what is demanded of genius is love of truth.”

87. “When ideas fail, words come in very handy.”

88. “Ignorant men raise questions that wise men answered a thousand years ago.”

89. “A person places themselves on a level with the ones they praise.”

90. “The man who occupies the first place seldom plays the principal part.”

91. “Everything that liberates our mind, without, at the same time imparting self-control is pernicious.”

92. “Every person above the ordinary has a certain mission that they are called to fulfill.”

93. “It is better to do the most trifling thing in the world than to regard half an hour as trifle.”

94. “I pity men who occupy themselves exclusively with the transitory in things and lose themselves in the study of what is perishable since we are here for this very end—that we may make the perishable imperishable, which we can do only after we have learned how to approach both.”

95. “Freedom consists not in refusing to recognize anything above us, but in respecting something which is above us. For by respecting it, we raise ourselves to it, and by our very acknowledgment, prove that we bear within ourselves what is higher, and are worthy to be on a level with it.”

96. “Few people have the imagination for reality.”

97. “Do not give in too much to feelings. An overly sensitive heart is an unhappy possession on this shaky earth.”

98. “It is not doing the thing we like to do, but liking the thing we have to do, that makes life blessed.”

99. “Many people take no care of their money till they come nearly to the end of it, and others do just the same with their time.”

100. “All intelligent thoughts have already been thought—what is necessary is only to try to think them again.”

101. “Man knows only when he is satisfied and when he suffers, and only his sufferings and his satisfactions instruct him concerning himself, teach him what to seek, and what to avoid. For the rest, man is a confused creature. He knows not whence he comes or whether he goes, he knows little of the world, and above all, he knows little of himself.”

102. “In nature, we never see anything isolated, but everything in connection with something else which is before it, beside it, under it, and over it.”

103. “A correct answer is like an affectionate kiss.”

104. “I respect the man who knows distinctly what he wishes. The greater part of all mischief in the world arises from the fact that men do not sufficiently understand their own aims. They have undertaken to build a tower and spend no more labor on the foundation than would be necessary to erect a hut.”

105. “The heights charm us, but the steps do not. With the mountain, in our view, we love to walk the plains.”

106. “Who is the most sensible person? The one who finds what is to their own advantage in all that happens to them.”

107. “Go to foreign countries, and you will get to know the good things one possesses at home.”

108. “When all is said, the greatest action is to limit and isolate one’s self.”

109. “No one would talk much in society if they knew how often they misunderstood others.”

110. “There is nothing in which people more betray their character than in what they laugh at.”

111. “It is only in misery that we recognize the hand of God leading good men to good.”

112. “What sort of God would it be, who only pushed from without.”

113. “The Christian religion—though scattered and abroad—will, in the end, gather itself together at the foot of the cross.”

114. “We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves. Otherwise, we harden.”

115. “Science arose from poetry—when times change—the two can meet again on a higher level as friends.”

116. “Upon the creatures we have made, we are, ourselves, at last, dependent.”

117. “The credit of advancing science has always been due to individuals and never to the age.”

118. “There is nothing more frightful than imagination without taste.”

119. “The really unhappy person is the one who leaves undone what they can do and starts doing what they don’t understand—no wonder they come to grief.”

120. “Hatred is something peculiar. You will always find it strongest and most violent where there is the lowest degree of culture.”

121. “He who has a task to perform must know how to take sides, or he is quite unworthy of it.”

122. “Mountains cannot be surmounted except by winding paths.”

123. “Always hold fast to the present. Every situation, indeed every moment, is of infinite value, for it is the representative of a whole eternity.”

124. “Character develops itself in the stream of life.”

125. “There is nothing in the world more shameful than establishing one’s self on lies and fables.”

126. “I do not know myself, and God forbid that I should.”

127. “I love those who yearn for the impossible.”

128. “Beauty is everywhere a welcome guest.”

129. “The deed is everything. The glory is naught.”

130. “The coward only threatens when he is safe.”

131. “It is in self-limitation that a master first shows himself.”

132. “One always has time enough—if one will apply it well.”

133. “The hardest thing to see is what is in front of your eyes.”

134. “Wisdom is found only in truth.”

135. “All things are only transitory.”

136. “Precaution is better than cure.”

137. “He who moves not forward goes backward.”

138. “Night is the other half of life and the better half.”

139. “Personality is everything in art and poetry.”

140. “What by a straight path cannot be reached by crooked ways is never won.”

141. “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”

142. “By seeking and blundering, we learn.”

143. “To create something, you must be something.”

144. “Hatred is active, and envy passive dislike. There is but one step from envy to hate.”

145. “He who enjoys doing, and enjoys what he has done, is happy.”

146. “The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.”

147. “Live dangerously and you live right.”

148. “The people who are absent are the ideal; those who are present seem to be quite commonplace.”

149. “It is better to be deceived by one’s friends than to deceive them.”

150. “Know thyself? If I knew myself, I’d run away.”

151. “Doubt grows with knowledge.”

152. “Self-knowledge comes from knowing other men.”

153. “Deeply earnest and thoughtful people stand on shaky footing with the public.”

154. “Superstition is the poetry of life.”

155. “There is nothing worse than aggressive stupidity.”

156. “Talent develops in solitude, character develops in the stream of life.”

157. “No one is willing to believe that adults too—like children—wander about this earth in a daze and, like children, do not know where they come from or where they are going. Act as rarely as they do according to genuine motives, and areas thoroughly governed as they are by biscuits, and cake, and the rod.”

158. “Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.”

159. “We will burn that bridge when we come to it.”

160. “The greatest genius will never be worth much if he pretends to draw exclusively from his own resources.”

161. “One must be something in order to do something.”

162. “A clever man commits no minor blunders.”

163. “Objects in pictures should so be arranged as by their very position to tell their own story.”

164. “Everything that happens to us leaves some trace behind it, and everything insensibly contributes to make us what we are.”

165. “Common sense is the genius of humanity.”

166. “Nothing shows a man’s character more than what he laughs at.”

167. “Age does not make us childish. As some say, it finds us true children.”

168. “But you’ll never speak from heart to heart unless it rises up from your heart’s space.”

169. “Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.”

170. “To appreciate the noble is a gain which can never be torn from us.”

171. “The formation of one’s character ought to be everyone’s chief aim.”

172. “A noble person attracts noble people and knows how to hold on to them.”

173. “Mastery passes often for egotism.”

174. “We can’t form our children on our own concepts. We must take them and love them as God gives them to us.”

175. “If you start to think of your physical and moral condition, you usually find that you are sick.”

176. “The little man is still a man.”

177. “I can tell you, honest friend, what to believe. Believe life. It teaches better than a book or orator.”

178. “Tell me with whom you associate, and I will tell you who you are.”

179. “The phrases that men hear or repeat continually end by becoming convictions and ossify the organs of intelligence.”

180. “Not the maker of plans and promises, but rather the one who offers faithful service in small matters. This is the person who is most likely to achieve what is good and lasting.”

181. “To the person with a firm purpose, all men and things are servants.”

182. “What life half gives a man, posterity gives entirely.”

183. “The man with insight enough to admit his limitations comes nearest to perfection.”

184. “I think that I am better than the people who are trying to reform me.”

185. “A man must cling to the belief that the incomprehensible is comprehensible. Otherwise, he would not try to fathom it.”

186. “To rule is easy, to govern difficult.”

187. “We need a constitution, we need rules, but we don’t need a wall.”

188. “Divide and rule, a sound motto. Unite and lead, a better one.”

189. “A man cannot well stand by himself, and so he is glad to join a party. Because if he does not find rest there, he, at any rate, finds quiet and safety.”

190. “People who think honestly and deeply have a hostile attitude towards the public.”

191. “There is no crime of which I do not deem myself capable.”

192. “A man’s errors are what make him amiable.”

193. “If each one does their duty as an individual, and if each one works in their own proper vocation, it will be right with the whole.”

194. “Everything looks easy that is practiced to perfection.”

195. “What is uttered from the heart alone will win the hearts of others to your own.”

196. “The history of the sciences is a great fugue, in which the voices of the nations come one by one into notice.”

197. “He who possesses science and art possesses religion as well. He who possesses neither of these had better have religion.”

198. “Not art and science serve alone—patience must in the work be shown.”

199. “Blood is a very special juice.”

200. “Duration in change.”

201. “Mathematicians are a kind of Frenchmen. Whenever you say anything or talk to them, they translate it into their own language, and right away, it is something completely different.”

202. “Elective affinities.”

203. “Everything that is worth thinking has already been thought. One must only try to think it again.”

204. “If you want to reach the infinite, explore every aspect of the finite.”

205. “What is there—wise or foolish—one can think, that former ages have not thought before?”

206. “The person of analytic or critical intellect finds something ridiculous in everything. The person of synthetic or constructive intellect, in almost nothing.”

207. “Master and doctor are my titles for ten years now. Without repose, I held my erudite recitals and led my pupils by the nose.”

208. “The greatest difficulties lie where we are not looking for them.”

209. “A creation of importance can only be produced when its author isolates himself. It is a child of solitude.”

210. “Error is acceptable as long as we are young, but one must not drag it along into old age.”

211. “Everything is hard before it is easy.”

212. “I have possessed that heart, that noble soul, in whose presence I seemed to be more than I really was—because I was all that I could be.”

213. “Who are you then? I am part of that power which eternally wills evil and eternally works good.”

214. “All truly wise thoughts have been thought already thousands of times, but to make them truly ours, we must think them over again honestly, until they take root in our personal experience.”

215. “To hard necessity ones will and fancy must conform.”

216. “Passions are vices or virtues to their highest powers.”

217. “Sowing is not as difficult as reaping.”

218. “He who does not think much of himself is much more esteemed than he imagines.”

219. “Desire is the presentiment of our inner abilities and the forerunner of our ultimate accomplishments.”

220. “In art, the best is good enough.”

221. “The unnatural, that too is natural.”

222. “The most happy man is he who knows how to bring into relation the end and beginning of his life.”

223. “Everything in the world may be endured except continual prosperity.”

224. “The biggest problem with every art is by the use of appearance to create a loftier reality.”

225. “Where is the man who has the strength to be true and to show himself as he is?”

226. “We are our own devils. We drive ourselves out of our Edens.”

227. “There is strong shadow where there is much light.”

228. “At the moment of commitment, the entire universe conspires to assist you.”

229. “The person who in shaky times also wavers, only increases the evil, but the person of firm decision fashions the universe.”

230. “I know nothing more mocking than a devil that despairs.”

231. “Continue to make the demands of the day your immediate concern, and take occasion to test the purity of your hearts and the steadfastness of your spirits. When you then take a deep breath and rise above the cares of this world, and in an hour of leisure, you will surely win the proper frame of mind to face devoutly what is above us, with reverence, seeing in all events the manifestation of a higher guidance.”

232. “It is the strange fate of man that even in the greatest of evils, the fear of the worst continues to haunt him.”

233. “On all the peaks lies peace.”

234. “Mysteries are not necessarily miracles.”

235. “Piety is not a goal, but a means to attain through the purest peace of mind the highest culture.”

236. “There is nothing so terrible as activity without insight.”

237. “No wise combatant underestimates their antagonist.”

238. “We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds—our planet is the mental institution of the universe.”

239. “Then indecision brings its own delays, and days are lost lamenting o’er lost days. Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute.”

240. “Rest not. Life is sweeping by. Go and dare before you die. Something mighty and sublime, leave behind to conquer time.”

241. “Wood burns because it has the proper stuff in it, and a man becomes famous because he has the proper stuff in him.”

242. “Who never ate his bread in sorrow, who never spent the darksome hours weeping, and watching for the morrow. He knows ye not, ye gloomy powers.”

243. “That I be not as those are who spend the day in complaining of headache, and the night in drinking the wine which gives the headache!”

244. “If children grew up according to early indications, we should have nothing but geniuses.”

245. “There is a courtesy of the heart—it is allied to love. From it springs the purest courtesy in the outward behavior.”

246. “Plunge boldly into the thick of life, and seize it where you will. It is always interesting.”

247. “Destiny grants us our wishes, but in its own way, in order to give us something beyond our wishes.”

248. “Every step of life shows much caution is required.”

249. “The right man is the one who seizes the moment.”

250. “We usually lose today because there has been a yesterday, and tomorrow is coming.”

251. “If you don’t feel it, you’ll never get it.”

252. “Devote each day to the object, then in time, and every evening will find something done.”

253. “In all things, it is better to hope than to despair.”

254. “Great thoughts and a pure heart, that is what we should ask from God.”

255. “Only by joy and sorrow does a person know anything about themselves and their destiny. They learn what to do and what to avoid.”

256. “Every spoken word arouses our self-will.”

257. “I never knew a more presumptuous person than myself. The fact that I say that shows that what I say is true.”

258. “Fresh activity is the only means of overcoming adversity.”

259. “Wealth lost is something lost. Honor lost is something lost. Courage lost all is lost.”

260. “It seems to never occur to fools that merit and good fortune are closely united.”

261. “The human mind will not be confined to any limits.”

262. “Whatever you cannot understand, you cannot possess.”

263. “There is nothing insignificant in the world. It all depends on the point of view.”

264. “A really great talent finds its happiness in execution.”

265. “A man avails himself of the truth so long as it is serviceable, but he seizes on what is false with a passionate eloquence as soon as he can make a momentary use of it. Whether it be to dazzle others with it as a kind of half-truth or to employ it as a stop-gap for effecting all apparent union between things that have been disjointed.”

266. “We don’t get to know people when they come to us. We must go to them to find out what they are like.”

267. “Whoever wishes to keep a secret must hide the fact that he possesses one.”

268. “Love can do much, but duty more.”

269. “No one has ever learned fully to know themselves.”

270. “Certain defects are necessary for the existence of individuality.”

271. “Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind them.”

272. “Character is formed in the stormy billows of the world.”

273. “If you modestly enjoy your fame, you are not unworthy to rank with the holy.”

274. “Happiness is a ball after which we run wherever it rolls, and we push it with our feet when it stops.”

275. “It is, after all, the greatest art to limit and isolate oneself.”

276. “Nature knows no pause in progress and development and attaches her curse on all inaction.”

277. “Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean.”

278. “I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather.”

279. “One must ask children and birds how cherries and strawberries taste.”

280. “Each animal is an end in itself.”

281. “Death is a commingling of eternity with time. In the death of a good man, eternity is seen looking through time.”

282. “A world without love would be no world.”

283. “Those who hope for no other life are dead even for this.”

284. “What is important in life is life and not the result of life.”

285. “A thorough advocate in a just cause, a penetrating mathematician facing the starry heavens, both alike bear the semblance of divinity.”

286. “Unlike grown-ups, children have little need to deceive themselves.”

287. “Age merely shows what children we remain.”

288. “Talk well of the absent whenever you have the opportunity.”

289. “The artist alone sees spirits. But after he has told of their appearing to him, everybody sees them.”

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