Words of Wisdom by Maya Angelou

I have been reading several books written by Maya Angelou for a couple of weeks now. I’ve already finished “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and “Gather Together in My Name” which are parts 1 and 2 of her autobiography, and came away with tremendous new insights. Currently, I’m halfway through the 3rd book of the series called “Singin’ and Swingin’ and Getting’ Merry Like Christmas.”

I have also read “Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now” and found myself highlighting (I so love that yellow highlighter pencil with a string that you pull so you don’t need to sharpen it anymore ) a lot of passages that struck me profoundly – some I needed to go over more than twice to really GET the meanings of. I’d like to share them with you in the hopes that somehow, you’ll also find yourselves nodding in agreement or getting to thinking more about certain things and emerging the wiser from these perspectives.

On The Sweetness of Charity
“The size and substance of the gift should be important to the recipient, but not to the donor save that the best thing one can give is that which is appreciated.”

“While our gifts and the recipients should be considered, our bounty, once decided upon, should be without concern, overflowing one minute and forgotten the next.”

“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”

On The Value of Style
“Many people utter insults or disparaging remarks without thinking, but a wise or stylish person takes the time to consider the positive as well as the negative possibilities in each situation.”

“Falling into an entanglement with brutes will usually result in nothing more conclusive than a stimulated nervous system and an upset digestive tract.”

In The Spirit (my favorite quote because I experience this a lot)
“My faith is tested many times every day, and more times than I’d like to confess, I’m unable to keep the banner of faith aloft. If a promise is not kept, or if a secret is betrayed, or if I experience long-lasting pain, I begin to doubt God and God’s love. I fall so miserably into the chasm of disbelief that I cry out in despair. Then the Spirit lifts me up again, and once more I am secured in faith. I don’t know how that happens, save when I cry out earnestly I am answered immediately and am returned to faithfulness. I am once again filled with Spirit and firmly planted on solid ground.”

On Being Complimented
“We can too easily become what we are called with all the unwelcome responsibilities the title makes us heir to.”

On Determining What is Funny
“We need to have the courage to say obesity is not funny, vulgarity is not amusing, insolent children and submissive parents are not the characters we want to admire and emulate. Flippancy and sarcasm are not the only ways in which conversation can be conducted.”

On Death and The Legacy (For me, this applies as well to times I tend to question the events happening around me, not just when a loved one passes on)
“I find surcease in the entanglement of questions only when I concede that I am not obliged to know everything. In a world where many desperately seek to know all the answers, it is not very popular to believe, and then state, I do not need to know all things. I remind myself that it is sufficient that I know what I know and know that without believing that I will always know what I know or that what I know will always be true.” (Yep, you might probably have to read this more than five times to digest and understand it completely :p)

On Getups
“I have lived in this body all my life and know it much better than any fashion designer. I think I know what looks good on me, and I certainly know what feels good in me … I am only willing to purchase the item which becomes me and to wear that which enhances my image of myself to myself.”

“If I feel good inside my skin and clothes, I am thus free to allow my body its sway, its natural grace, its natural gesture. Then I am so comfortable that whatever I wear looks good on me even to the external fashion arbiters.”

“Dress is important to mention because many people are imprisoned by powerful dictates on what is right and proper to wear. Those decisions made by others and sometimes at their convenience are not truly meant to make life better or finer or more graceful or more gracious. Many times they stem from greed, insensitivity, and the need for control.”

“Seek the fashion which truly fits and befits you. You will always be in fashion if you are true to yourself, and only if you are true to yourself.”

On Living Well, Living Good
“Living well is an art which can be developed … basic talents to live upon: love of life and the ability to take great pleasure from small offerings, an assurance that the world owes you nothing and that every gift is exactly that, a gift. That people who may differ from you in political stance, sexual persuasion, and racial inheritance can be founts of fun, and if you are lucky, they can even become convivial comrades.”

“Living life as art requires a readiness to forgive. I do not mean that you should suffer fools gladly, but rather remember your own shortcomings, and when you encounter another with flaws, don’t be eager to righteously seal yourself away from the offender forever. Take a few breaths and imagine yourself having just committed the action which have set you at odds.”

“Life is pure adventure, and the sooner we realize that, the quicker we will be able to treat life as an art; to bring all our energies to each encounter, to remain flexible enough to notice and admit when what we expected to happen did not happen. We need to remember that we are created creative and can invent new scenarios as frequently as they are needed.”

On The Power of the Word (A big Amen to this!)
“I knew that if God loved me, then I could do wonderful things, I could try great things, learn anything, achieve anything. For what could stand against me with God, since one person, any person with God, constitutes the majority? That knowledge humbles me, melts my bones, closes my ears, and makes my teeth rock loosely in their gums”

On Further New Directions
“In order to survive, the ample soul needs refreshments and reminders daily of its right to be and to be wherever it finds itself.”

A quote from her mother Vivian Baxter when Maya lost her job: “So what? Remember, you were looking for a job when you found the one you just lost. So you’ll just be looking for a job one more time.” (Now that is one wise momma!)

On Complaining
An advice from Maya’s grandmother, Annie Henderson: “What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”

“Whining is not only graceless, but can be dangerous. It can alert a brute that a victim is in the neighborhood.”

At Harvestime
“Too many times for comfort I have expected to reap good when I know I have sown evil. My lame excuse is that I have not always known that actions can only reproduce themselves, or rather, I have not always allowed myself to be aware of that knowledge.”

Voices of Respect
“We must re-create an attractive and caring attitude in our homes and in our worlds. If our children are to approve of themselves, they must see that we approve of ourselves. If we persist in self-disrespect and then ask our children to respect themselves, it is as if we break all their bones and then insist that they win Olympic gold medals for the hundred-yard dash.”

Brutality is Definitely Not Acceptable
“I am never proud to participate in violence, yet I know that each of us must care enough for ourselves to be ready and able to come to our own self-defense.”

On Discrimination
“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength. We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter their color; equal in importance no matter their texture.

Our young must be taught that racial peculiarities do exist, but beneath the skin, beyond the differing features and into the true heart of being, fundamentally, we are more alike, my friend, that we are unalike.”

On Having a Day All To Oneself (This goes out especially to all the hardworking stay-at-home moms like me out there…)
“Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, lovers, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence.

Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.

If we step away for a time, we are not, as many may think and some will accuse, being irresponsible, but rather we are preparing ourselves to more ably perform our duties and discharge our obligations.”


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