Georges Eliot defined Johann Wolfgang von Goethe as the greatest man of letters in German history. Therefore, Goethe’s quotes are simply the tip of the iceberg of this unusual writer and thinker.
Many people consider him one of the most relevant intellectuals of the 18th century and one of the best writers of all time. Goethe’s quotes are an expression of his genius. However, only by immersing yourself in his work will you be able to truly capture his masterful words.
Goethe exerted a remarkable influence on all the writers and German philosophers that came after him. Let’s look at some of Goethe’s most powerful quotes.
This is one of his best quotes. In fact, it’s safe to say that it continues to surprise people:
“There are two things children should get from their parents: roots and wings.”
With “roots”, Goethe referred to childhood and everything that it implies, the way that it shapes a person’s life. Believe it or not, a big part of a person’s destiny is sealed during this stage. When he says “wings”, he alludes to an individual’s ability to project themselves into the future. In the end, both are great legacies.
The value of different hypotheses
“Hypotheses are only the pieces of scaffolding which are erected round a building during the course of construction, and which are taken away as soon as the edifice is complete.”
Goethe isn’t known for his scientific side. Nonetheless, he explored this field. Although this quote is about science, it’s also applicable to life. What he tried to say was that, basically, guesses weren’t facts. Thus, it’s important to be sure about your decisions before making them.
One of Goethe’s most powerful quotes about change
“Life belongs to the living, and he who lives must be prepared for change.”
The beauty of this statement lies in the simplicity with which it expresses one of the great universal truths.
In one way or another, it makes the concepts of statism and death seem equivalent. What doesn’t change isn’t alive. Every living thing is in permanent mutation and the wisest thing to do is to be prepared for continuous transformation.
This is another of Goethe’s most powerful quotes, as it’s really touching.
“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”
In other words, he wanted to inspire people to be daring and pursue everything they wanted to do. According to him, there’s a special strength in being bold and cunning, as that might be the only way to reach your goals. Working towards your dreams is something you shouldn’t put off.
“Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men.”
In this quote, Goethe spoke of dreams.
It’s very interesting that he associated desire with motivation. In fact, with this quote, he wanted to express that only big dreams are capable of really encouraging people to act. Small targets, ones that aren’t scary enough, may not be powerful enough to fully capture someone’s will to take action.
Listening is essential
“Correction does much, but encouragement does more. Encouragement after censure is as the sun after a shower.”
This reflection calls for letting people be themselves and allowing them to express their thoughts freely. Sometimes, people focus too much on correcting others, thinking that all they’re doing is wrong. Each individual has the right to think the way they want to think. It’s important to remain serene when you hear different opinions. Lastly, it’s vital to learn to listen to criticism with the mind and not with the heart.
Talent and character
When talking about some of Goethe’s most powerful quotes, we couldn’t leave this one out, as it reflects human reality:
“Talents are best nurtured in solitude; but character is best formed in the stormy billows of the world.”
What makes this quote so valuable is the fact that it specifies the circumstances that favor talent and character development. Polishing and enhancing skills and abilities requires peace of mind. Developing character requires effort.
Spanish philosopher George Santayana described Goethe as “the most enlightened man of humanity”. Perhaps the reason why so many people admired this German writer is that he was able to express his genius and his thoughts in a very original way.