One of the most renowned and influential voices of our time passed away on May 28, 2014. Maya Angelou was a poet, dancer, actress, singer, and writer most famous for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Her profound ideas live on—here are Maya Angelou’s inspiring words on love, compassion, and self-compassion.
Maya Angelou on Love and Compassion
“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”
“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it has not solved one yet.”
“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”
“The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise.”
“To those who have given up on love, I say, ‘Trust life a little bit.'”
“If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don’t be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning ‘Good morning’ at total strangers.”
“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life. I’ve learned that making a “living” is not the same thing as making a “life.” I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Maya Angelou on Self-compassion
“If I am not good to myself, how can I expect anyone else to be good to me?”
“You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.”
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
“The question is not how to survive, but how to thrive with passion, compassion, humor and style.”
“I don’t know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes- it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, ‘Well, if I’d known better I’d have done better,’ that’s all. So you say to people who you think you may have injured, ‘I’m sorry,’ and then you say to yourself, ‘I’m sorry.’ If we all hold on to the mistake, we can’t see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror; we can’t see what we’re capable of being. You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one’s own self. I think that young men and women are so caught by the way they see themselves. Now mind you. When a larger society sees them as unattractive, as threats, as too black or too white or too poor or too fat or too thin or too sexual or too asexual, that’s rough. But you can overcome that. The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don’t have that we never grow, we never learn, and sure as hell we should never teach.”
Elizabeth Pyjov is the Editor-in-chief of Compassion Journal. She currently teaches Compassion Cultivation Training at Columbia University to graduate students and faculty, as well as to the general public at the renowned Tibet House in New York City. She has taught workshops about compassion at Columbia, NYU, Tibet House, and the Harvard Club of New York, where she leads a special-interest group about compassion.