As a writer, I often find myself falling victim to the “quote” move.
- I choose my article topic
- I search out “topic + quotes” on Google
- I find the most compelling, accurately-cited quote for my needs
- I select, copy, paste, and repeat
It’s easy peasy and, often, quotes are the most popular part of my article. This might lead me to question my worth as a writer, but I find consolation in the fact that someone needs to curate and package quotes.
Why are quotes so lovable?
Quotes are harvested, curated, and served up in Google with one main purpose: inspiration. Ayodeji Awosika, a Top Writer on Medium, recently wrote about the power of quotes, referring to them as “the swords that cut the Gordian knots of noise and reveal the essence of life we know deep down but tend to forget.”
Often, the life quotes we seek out are like fluffy little bunnies in the pet store window: cute, huggable, perfect for a moment, but totally ill-equipped to survive in the harsh wilderness of life.
So where are the ugly quotes? The quotes that, like vultures, soar above the popular searches on Pinterest and prey on the adorable yet short-lived bunnies left for dead on the road of life.
I’ll share a few of my favorite “ugly” quotes; quotes that have stuck with me in the darker moments of life, reminding me that life is not intended to be light and fluffy, but complicated, messy, and deeply meaningful.
The Beauty of our Personal Hells
“No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.” — Carl Jung
When I’m struggling through a particularly difficult trial, my mind turns to this quote from Carl Jung that speaks to the necessary duality of our life experience.
I’m reminded that if I want to reach new heights of personal enlightenment, I must be willing to experience new depths of uncertainty, discomfort, and even sorrow.
The Realization that True Pain is True Gain
“No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown.”― William Penn
I often look at my hardest personal trials as bullies of the soul. They’re the nasty parts of my day that show up uninvited, beat the crap out of me, take my lunch money and leave me feeling weak and violated.
I can try to fight against them (and I often do), however, this typically only leads to more intense beatings in the near future. Words such as those of William Penn remind me that there is purpose behind the pain and worth behind the wrestling.
The Divine Nature of a Difficult Path
“When life is hard, remember — we are not the first to ask, ‘Is there no other way?” — Jeffrey R. Holland
Being a devout Christian, I’m often faced with the seeming conundrum of an immortal, loving God who is overseeing a heart-wrenching mortal experience (more so for others than for myself).
Thankfully, I’m reminded that even humanity’s shining examples of enlightenment, God’s most beloved Son, once questioned if there wasn’t another way to get there.
Questioning my path is not a sin. In fact, it’s often the telltale sign that something significant is about to happen.
The Beauty of Not Having
“Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only dispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.” — Henry David Thoreau
Two years ago, I was let go from a job that paid well over six figures. Since that time, our family has lived off of much, much less. One of the most poignant and frustrating lessons learned from this change in income bracket was that we didn’t need that much money. We didn’t need that much stuff. Heck, we hardly need any stuff at all.
This realization, as confirmed by Thoreau, was both liberating and infuriating. What had we done with all that extra money? I can’t tell you. What I can tell you is that once we again reach that income bracket, I’ll keep this quote close to my heart (and bank accounts).
The Impossibility of Perfection
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” — Jesus Christ
As a chronic control-freak and horribly-imperfect perfectionist, these words from the Savior of mankind do more than grate on my soul… they shove it into the food processor of life and hit purée. It’s hard not to feel the burn, especially on days when I know I’ve fallen well short of my divine potential.
Thankfully, God’s compassion manages to reach me, even in my immeasurable depth of the deficiency. This life is about seeing and acting more like God in daily bite-sized installments.
As a wiser, more perfect Gospel scholar, Brad Wilcox, put it, “We are not earning heaven. We are learning heaven.”
These hard-to-read quotes have been faithful friends to me when I need an honest point-of-view. Like good friends, they don’t sugarcoat life but they do put it in perspective, a perspective that helps elevate my thinking.
I hope one or more of them might do the same for you.