Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Despair

"Whoever sets out to persuade men to accept a new idea, or one which seems to be new, not just as an idea, but as a truth that is felt, should know beforehand that the human mind is not a blank sheet, on which one an write with ease, and should not therefore grieve or despair when he finds that people do not pay attention to him." - Ahad HaAm, pen name, born Asher Zvi Hirsch Ginsberg

"A cheerful spirit is one of the most valuable gifts ever bestowed upon humanity by a kind Creator. It is the sweetest and the most fragrant flower of the Spirit, that constantly sends out its beauty and fragrance, and blesses everything within its reach. It will sustain the soul in the darkest and most dreary places of this world. It will hold in check the demons of despair, and stifle the power of discouragement and hopelessness. It is the brightest star that ever cast its radiance over the darkened soul, and one that seldom sets in the gloom of morbid fancies and foreboding imaginations." - Arthur Aughey

"With our finite minds we cannot presume to know if there is a Purpose. We sense, however, the presence of something greater than we can comprehend, a force as yet unknown to us - perhaps even to be unknown. So we accept our situation, learn from it, and do the best we can, resting on faith, despair, or cynicism, depending on the individual. Overriding all this must be an obligation - self-imposed or externally impressed - to do the best one can for others, to relieve suffering and to exercise compassion. We are all in this together, for life is a common, not an individual, endeavor." - Harry Blackmun, fully Harold "Harry" Andrew Blackmun

"Religion converts despair, which destroys, into resignation, which submits." - Marguerite Gardiner, Countess of Blessington, Lady Blessington, born Margaret Power

"There is a very life in our despair." -

"A religion giving dark views of God, and infusing superstitious fear of innocent enjoyment, instead of aiding sober habits, will, by making men abject and sad, impair their moral force and prepare them for intemperance as a refuge from depression or despair." - William Ellery Channing

"Discouragement is simply the despair of wounded self-love." - François Fénelon, fully Francois de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon

"Faults will turn to good, provided we use them to our own humiliation, without slackening in the effort to correct ourselves. Discouragement serves no possible purpose; it is simply the despair of wounded self-love. The real way of profiting by the humiliation of one’s own faults is to face them in their true hideousness, without ceasing to hope in God, while hoping nothing from self." - François Fénelon, fully Francois de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon

"In all things it is better to hope than to despair." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"Debauchery is perhaps an act of despair in the face of infinity." - Edmund (Louis Antoine Huot) de Goncourt (1822-1896) and Jules (Alfred Huot) de Goncourt

"The worst of poisons: to mistrust (despair) one's power." - Heinrich Heine

"Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old by deserting their ideals. Years wrinkle the face, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, doubt, self-interest, fear, despair - these are the long, long years that bow the head and turn the growing spirit back to dust." - Watterson Lowe

"Great things often come from where despair reigns. The performance of duty still determines man's destiny." - J. Russell Lynes

"Evil exists in the world not to create despair but activity." - Thomas Malthus, fully Thomas Robert Malthus

"No virtue fades out of mankind. No over-hopeful by inborn temperament, cautious by long experience, I yet never despair of human virtue." - Joseph Parker

"Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind. People grow old only by deserting their ideals and outgrowing the consciousness of youth. Years wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. You are as old as your doubt; your fear; your despair. The way to keep young is to keep your faith young. Keep your self-confidence young. Keep your hope young." - Luella F. Phelan

"Humanity goes on and on almost in despair, hoping some time to find rest and peace and fullness of life in the undefined future, when, in fact, all these and more are here now if we would (could?) only reach out our hand and take them." - A. J. S. NULL

"At times a person might feel so embarrassed and discouraged over the wrongs he has committed that he will give up trying to improve. Despair is wrong. You always have the ability to improve yourself and should never become discouraged." - Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, aka Beis Halevi

"No clear-thinking or clear-seeing man or woman can be an apostle of despair. He alone fails who gives up and lies down." - Ralph Waldo Trine

"As it is never too soon to be good, so it is never too late to amend; I will, therefore, neither neglect the time present, nor despair of the time past. If I had been sooner good, I might perhaps have been better; if I am longer bad, I shall I am sure, be worse." - Arthur Warwick

"People who are in despair always make a mistake when they hang themselves; the next day often brings the unknown." -

"Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy." -

"Despair is the offspring of fear; of laziness, and impatience; it argues a defect of spirit and resolution, and often of honesty too. I would not despair unless I saw my misfortune recorded in the book of fate; and signed and sealed by necessity." - Jeremy Collier

"I can't tell if a straw ever saved a drowning man, but I know that a mere glance is enough to make despair pause. For in truth we who are creatures of impulse are creatures of despair." - Joseph Conrad, born Teodor Josef Konrad Korzeniowski

"Hope is a willing slave; despair is free." - Charles Gates Dawes

"The pleasures of the world are deceitful; they promise more than they give. They trouble us in seeking them, they do not satisfy us when possessing them and they make us despair in losing them." -

"Don't despair of a student if he has one clear idea." - Nathaniel Emmons

"Considering the unforeseen events of this world, we should be taught that no human condition should inspire men with absolute despair." - Henry Fielding

"The most glorious moments in your life are not the so-called days of success, but rather those days when out of dejection and despair you feel rise in you a challenge to life, and the promise of future accomplishments." - Gustave Flaubert

"When a business firm attempts to mold its whole policy to meet the prices of its competitor that business is entering a labyrinth, the center of which is the chamber of despair. Highest quality never can be given or obtained at the lowest prices. If a price must be sacrificed, quality must be sacrificed. If quality is sacrificed society is not truly served." -

"I once counseled a man in despair to do what I myself did in a similar circumstances: to live for short terms. Come, I said to myself at that time, at any rate you can bear it for a quarter of an hour." - Theodor Haecker

"A religious man is a person who holds God and man in one thought at one time, at all times, who suffers harm done to others, whose greatest passion is compassion, whose greatest strength is love and defiance of despair." - Abraham Joshua Heschel

"God made both tears and laughter, and both for kind purposes; for as laughter enables mirth and surprise to breathe freely, so tears enable sorrow to vent itself patiently. Tears hinder sorrow from becoming despair and madness; and laughter is on top of the very privileges of reason, being confined to the human species." - James Henry Leigh Hunt

"Kind sleep affords the only boon the wretched mind can feel; a momentary respite from despair." -

"To build Utopias in defiance of scientific principles is only a fool's errand. If false hopes are momentarily good for morale, we must ultimately pay for such folly in episodes of disillusionment, cynicism and despair." - Merryle Stanley Rukeyser

"Despair is infidelity and death." - John Greenleaf Whittier

"You cannot have ecstasy and divine vision without bitterness and despair, and both of these are the property of youth." - Edmund Wilson

"It is counterproductive to assume we have created every misfortune in our life, as if we had made a conscious intention to do so. That kind of thinking leads to guilt and despair. Nevertheless, a sincere willingness to acknowledge that we have certain beliefs that have created our situation will enrich our approach to working through obstacles." - Carol Adrienne

"Happy are those whose life is today and only today. Sad are the prophets and those others whose eyes are open to the past. Blessed are they who neither see their painful yesterdays nor their tomorrows filled with despair: they rest in peace." - Ayi Kwei Armah

"If the meaning of life is not a mystery, if leading meaningful lives is within the power of all of us, then we do not need to ask the question `What’s it all about?’ in despair. We can look around us and see the many ways in which life can be meaningful. We can see the value of happiness while accepting that it is not everything, which will make it easier for us at those times when it eludes us. We can learn to appreciate the pleasure of life without becoming slaves to appetites which can never be satisfied. We can see the value of success, while not interpreting that too narrowly, so that we can appreciate the project of striving to become what we want to be as well as the more visible, public signs of success. We can see the value of seizing the day, without leading us into a desperate scramble to grasp the ungraspable moment. We can appreciate the value in helping others lead meaningful lives, too, without thinking that altruism demands everything we have. And finally, we can recognize the value of love, as perhaps the most powerful motivator to do anything at all." - Julian Baggini

"To attune your spirit to your own special place in the world is never to know envy, or malice, or despair." - Carlos Castaneda, fully Carlos César Salvador Arana Castaneda

"The first question to be answered by any individual or any social group, facing a hazardous situation, is whether the crisis is to be met as a challenge to strength or as an occasion for despair." -

"Religious faith must enable us to face tragedy and finitude in the devastating and bewildering particular forms they come to us without giving in to despair or morbidity." - James W. Fowler III

"The present moment is never intolerable. It is always what is coming in five minutes or five days that makes people despair. The Law of Life is to live in the present, and this applies to both time and place. Keep your attention to the present moment, and in the place where your body is now." - Emmet Fox

"The most fateful choices are made in tragic loneliness. In the valley of decision, we stand alone, accompanied by our haunting fears and our stubborn hopes, by dread despair or gritty faith. Yet, though we appear to stand solitary, in truth we are accompanied by the tall and brave spirits who have stood where we stand and who, when torn between “No” and “Yes” to life and its infinite possibilities; by those who have had the wisdom to focus not on what they had lost but on what they had left; by those who understood that fate is what life gives us and that destiny is what we do with what’s given; and by those who, therefore, grasped the liberating truth that while we have no control over our fate, we do have an astonishing amount of control over our destiny." - Sidney Greenberg

"The human world represents a purgatorial-like range of opportunities and choices, from the most grim to the exalted, from criminality to nobility, from fear to courage, from despair to hope, and from greed to charity. This if the purpose of the human experience is to evolve, then this world is perfect just as it is." - David R. Hawkins, fully David Ramon Hawkins

"Despair is due not to failures but to the inability to hear deeply and personally the challenge that confronts us." - Abraham Joshua Heschel

"The greatest heresy is despair." - Abraham Joshua Heschel

"God does not send us despair in order to kill us; he sends it in order to awaken us to a new life." - Herman Hesse

"It is only in the depths of crisis and despair that the fear of losing one’s personality breeds millennial hopes of rescue: otherwise, complacency prevails." - Stanley Hoffmann and Inge Hoffmann