Once you hear Dr. Thurman (1899 – 1981) and/or see his speak, you are forever changed. Words on the page don’t do him justice, but here are a few from the work titled For The Inward Journey: The Writings of Howard Thurman. Selected by Anne Spencer Thurman. Introduction by Vincent Harding.
When have you last had a good session with yourself? Or have you ever had it out with you?
Most often you are brought face to face with yourself only when such an encounter is forced up on you. Usually it is in connection with a crisis situation. There is a death in the immediate circle of close family or friends with the result that definite changes must be made in your way of living and thinking. You must accustom yourself to living without the active relationship of the departed one. Or it may be that there is the quickening discovery that your parents are old and can no longer relate to you at the point of your needs but you must related to them at the point of their need.
There may be other causes of self-confrontation. A chance remark from a friend may bring you quickly to face the fact that you are a pretender in your relations with others, that you have never faced up to your own lack of integrity in word and in act. In a time of temper you may say things of which you are deeply ashamed, not so much because you said them – that is bad enough – but because you were capable of thinking them. You may discover that in trying to make a decision involving a course of action, you are utterly incompetent to do so because you have never claimed your mind as your own. All thought the years you have drifted from one position to another, letting your meaning be determined by your response to others or their demands – not determined by how you felt, really, nor what you personally thought. Now you look for some clue outside yourself and there is none to be found. You must decide and abide.
Whatever may be the occasion, there comes a deep necessity which leads you finally into the closet with yourself. It is here that you raise the real questions about yourself. The leading one is, What is it, after all, that I amount to, ultimately? Such a question cuts through all that is superficial and trivial in life to the very nerve center of yourself. And this is a religious question because it deals with the total meaning of life at its heart. At such a moment, and at such a time, you must discover for yourself what is the TRUE basis of your self-respect. This is found only in relation to God, whose Presence makes itself known in the most lucid moments of self-awareness. For all of us are His children and the most crucial clue to a knowledge of Him is to be found in the most honest and most total knowledge of the self.