Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it towards others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will be in our troubled world.

— Etty Hillesum

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Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths, or the turning inwards in prayer for five short minutes.


As life becomes harder and more threatening, it also becomes richer, because the fewer expectations we have, the more good things of life become unexpected gifts that we accept with gratitude.


All disasters stem from us. Why is there a war? Perhaps because now and then I might be inclined to snap at my neighbour. Because I and my neighbour and everyone else do not have enough love. Yet we could fight war and all its excrescences by releasing each day, the love which is shackled inside us, and giving it a chance to live.


Thinking gets you nowhere. It may be a fine and noble aid in academic studies, but you can't think your way out of emotional difficulties. That takes something altogether different. You have to make yourself passive then, and just listen. Re-establish contact with a slice of eternity.


A desire to kneel down sometimes pulses through my body, or rather it is as if my body has been meant and made for the act of kneeling. Sometimes, in moments of deep gratitude, kneeling down becomes an overwhelming urge, head deeply bowed, hands before my face.


I really see no other solution than to turn inwards and to root out all the rottenness there. I no longer believe that we can change anything in the world until we first change ourselves. And that seems to me the only lesson to be learned.


A large group of us were crowded into the Gestapo hall, and at that moment the circumstances of all our lives were the same. All of us occupied the same space, the men behind the desk no less than those about to be questioned. What distinguished each of us was only our inner attitude.


Never give up, never escape, take everything in, and perhaps suffer, that's not too awful either, but never, never give up.


Before, I always lived in anticipation .

. . that it was all a preparation for something else, something "greater," more "genuine." But that feeling has dropped away from me completely. I live here and now, this minute, this day, to the full, and the life is worth living.


That I should die next week, I would still be able to sit at my desk all week and study with perfect equanimity, for I know now that life and death make a meaningful whole.


There are moments when I feel like giving up or giving in, but I soon rally again and do my duty as I see it: to keep the spark of life inside me ablaze.


Become simple and live simply, not only within yourself but also in your everyday dealings. Don’t make ripples all around you, don’t try to be interesting, keep your distance, be honest, fight the desire to be thought fascinating by the outside world.


About Etty Hillesum

Quotes 57 sayings
Nationality Dutch
Profession Lawyer
Birthday October 16

The more peace there is in us, the more peace there will be in our troubled world.


And I believe that I will never be able to hate any human being for his so-called 'wickedness,' that I shall only hate the evil that is within me, though hate is perhaps putting it too strongly even then. In any case, we cannot be lax enough in what we demand of others and strict enough in what we demand of ourselves.


Every day I shall put my papers in order and every day I shall say farewell.

And the real farewell, when it comes, will only be a small outward confirmation of what has been accomplished within me from day to day.


Most people write off their longing for friends and family as so many losses in their lives, when they should count the fact that their heart is able to long so hard and to love so much as among their greatest blessings.


If one burdens the future with one's worries, it cannot grow organically.

I am filled with confidence, not that I shall succeed in worldly things, but that even when things go badly for me I shall still find life good and worth living.


Life cannot be captured in a few axioms.

And that is just what I keep trying to do. But it won't work, for life is full of endless nuances and cannot be captured in just a few formulae.


The fact is I don't lead a simple enough inner life.

I indulge in excesses, bacchanalia of the spirit. Perhaps I identify too much with everything I read and study. Someone like Dostoevsky still shatters me.


Life is good, after all...and that's what stays with me, even now, even when I'm about to be packed off to Poland.


Sometimes I try my hand at turning out small profundities and uncertain short stories, but I always end up with just one single word: God.


That fear of missing out on things makes you miss out on everything.


Greed probably figures in my intellectual life as well, as I attempt to absorb a massive amount of information with consequent mental indigestion.


We have to fight them daily, lake fleas, those many small worries about the morrow, for they sap our energies.


Everything is chance, or nothing is chance.

If I believed the first, I would be unable to live on, but I am not yet fully convinced of the second.


If one finds the strength to deal with small things, one finds it to deal with the large ones as well.


After each creative act one has to be sustained by one's strength of character, by a moral sense, by I don't know what, lest one tumble.


How rash to assert that man shapes his own destiny. All he can do is determine his inner responses.


Each of us must turn inward and destroy in himself all that he thinks he ought to destroy in others.


Sometimes I long for a convent cell, with the sublime wisdom of centuries set out on bookshelves all along the wall and a view across the cornfields--there must be cornfields and they must wave in the breeze--and there I would immerse myself in the wisdom of the ages and in myself. Then I might perhaps find peace and clarity. But that would be no great feat. It is right here, in this very place, in the here and the now, that I must find them.


I'm afraid I did not pray hard enough last night.


Here, beside this great black surface that is my desk, I feel as though I am on a desert island.


It is the only thing we can do. Each of us must turn inward and destroy in himself all that he thinks he ought to destroy in others. And remember that every atom of hate that we add to this world makes it sill more inhospitable


I know and share the many sorrows a human being can experience, but I do not cling to them; they pass through me, like life itself, as a broad eternal stream...and life continues.


Sometimes my day is crammed full of people and talk and yet I have the feeling of living in utter peace and quiet. And the tree outside my window, in the evenings, is a greater experience than all those people put together.


I think what weakens people most is fear of wasting their strength.


Sometimes I feel that every word spoken and every gesture made merely serve to exacerbate misunderstandings. Then what I would really like is to escape into a great silence and impose that silence on everyone else.


Suffering has always been with us; does it really matter in what form it comes? All that matters is how we bear it and how we fit it into our lives.


I would be so exhausted by my determination that I had no strength left to do the actual work.


I keep remembering from my early student days how I would walk at night through the streets, my hands bunched into fists in the pocket of my coat, my head hunched deep into my collar, and how I used to say, 'I want to work, I shall work'--and then I would come back home and be so exhausted by my determination that I had no strength left to do the actual work.


Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.


Every word born of an inner necessity - writing must never be anything else.


We should be willing to act as a balm for all wounds.


Our desire must be like a slow and stately ship, sailing across endless oceans, never in search of safe anchorage. Then suddenly, unexpectedly, it will find mooring for a moment.


One must also accept that one has 'uncreative' moments.

The more honestly one can accept that, the quicker these moments will pass.


And now that I don't want to own anything any more and am free, now I suddenly own everything, now my inner riches are immeasurable.


We have to fight them daily, like fleas, those many small worries about the morrow, for they sap our energies. We make mental provisions for the days to come, and everything turns out differently, quite differently. Sufficient unto the day. The things that have to be done must be done, and for the rest we must not allow ourselves to become infested with thousands of petty fears and worries.


To live fully, outwardly and inwardly, not to ignore the external reality for the sake of the inner life, or the reverse, that's quite a task


Despite everything, life is full of beauty and meaning.