Kierkegaard, Søren

Words of Encouragement from Kierkegaard

In recent months, there has been a lot of suffering in the world due to hatred and fear. In times like these it is important to be reminded again and again of what true, selfless love looks like.

“[T]he men we see (and it is the same when others see us) are not perfect. And yet it is very often the case that one develops within himself this queasy weakness which is good only for loving the complete epitome of perfections. And yet, although we human beings are all imperfect, one very rarely sees the sound, strong, capable love which is good for loving imperfect beings, that is, the men we see.” ~Works of Love by Søren Kierkegaard (trans. Howard and Edna Hong, p. 164)

Earlier in the chapter, Kierkegaard tells a parable about two artists:

“[S]uppose there were two artists, and the one said, “I have traveled much and seen much in the world, but I have sought in vain to find a man worth painting. I have found no face with such perfection of beauty that I could make up my mind to paint it. In every face I have seen one or another little fault. Therefore I seek in vain.” Would this indicate that this artist was a great artist? On the other hand, the second one said, “Well, I do not pretend to be a real artist; neither have I traveled in foreign lands, but remaining in the little circle of men who are closest to me, I have not found a face so insignificant or so full of faults that I still could not discern in it a more beautiful side and discover something glorious. Therefore I am happy in the art I practice. It satisfies me without my making any claim to being an artist.” Would this not indicate that precisely this one was the artist, one who by bringing a certain something with him found then and there what the much-traveled artist did not find anywhere in the world, perhaps because he did not bring a certain something with him! Consequently the second of the two was the artist. Would it not be sad, too, if what is intended to beautify life could only be a curse upon it, so that art, instead of making life beautiful for us, only fastidiously discovers that not one of us is beautiful. Would it not be sadder still, and still more confusing, if love also should be only a curse because its demand could only make it evident that none of us is worth loving, instead of love’s being recognized precisely by its loving enough to be able to find some lovableness in all of us, consequently loving enough to be able to love all of us.” (p. 156-157)

Maybe, many of the acts of hatred in the world stem from a misunderstanding of true love. When people seek perfection in others, they inevitably become frustrated and angry because no one lives up their expectations. In despair, they assume the worst of everyone.

Kierkegaard admonishes us to never give up hope:

“[N]ever in unlovingness give up a person or give up hope for him, for it is possible that even the most prodigal son can still be saved, that the most embittered enemy, alas, he who was your friend, it is still possible that he can again become your friend; it is possible that he who was sunk the deepest, alas, because he stood so high, it is still possible that he can be raised up again; it is still possible that the love which has turned cold can burn again – therefore never give up any man, not even at the last moment; do not despair. No, hope all things!” (p.238)


3 thoughts on “Words of Encouragement from Kierkegaard”

  1. I love the story of the two artists so much. In fact the whole post is just what I needed to read today. Kierkegaard seems to showing up everywhere I look. I think that means it’s time for me to get reading his books!

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