Toni Morrison Quotes On Finding Your Inner Strength That Embody Her Incredible Legacy
The world has lost yet another legendary woman. When someone's life ends, it can be easy to focus on how much they will be missed, yet it is sometimes even more powerful to reflect on the incredible legacy they've left. Following the passing of iconic novelist Toni Morrison, these moving quotes of hers will not only serve as a vital reminder of how impactful her work was, but each will also empower you, inspire you, and remind you just how to be your best self.
Morrison passed away in a hospital in New York last night, according to CNN. She was 88 years old. Morrison was a writer, author, professor and Nobel Prize winner, whose work was known for examining the Black experience — particularly, the female Black experience — in the United States, as noted by the Encyclopedia Britannica. She is best known for books such as Beloved and Song of Solomon. Morrison won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993.
In total, she had a six-decade career, according to TIME, during which she wrote 11 novels, five children's books, two plays, a song cycle and an opera. In addition, she worked as an editor, professor, and mentor to younger generations of Black writers. It's clear that Morrison's impact was far-reaching, and her words will certainly move generations to come. Here are some of her most profound ideas and words.
Give Up What Weighs You Down
In Song of Solomon, Morrison wrote one of her most well-known quotes: "You wanna fly, you got to give up the sh*t that weighs you down."
Write What You Need To Read
In a 1981 speech before the Ohio Arts Council, as The Miami Herald reported, Morrison shared these guiding words for all aspiring writers, or anyone who dreams of creating something powerful in the world: "If you find a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it."
Love Is A Diploma
In Paradise, Morrison outlined what it truly means to love, and how it makes us the best versions of ourselves that we can be. "Love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind. It is a learned application without reason or motive except that it is God," she began.
"You do not deserve love regardless of the suffering you have endured," she continued. "You do not deserve love because somebody did you wrong. You do not deserve love just because you want it. You can only earn — by practice and careful contemplations — the right to express it and you have to learn how to accept it... Love is not a gift. It is a diploma."
How To Treat A Child
In an interview with Oprah, Morrison once gave the following parenting advice: "Do your eyes light up when your child walks in the room?" as though to communicate how important it is for every child to feel important.
"There are so many things to remember Toni Morrison by, but this is the single, most significant piece of advice that I received prior to starting a family that I purposefully carried into motherhood," one Twitter user shared.
If You Have Power, Empower Others
During an interview with O, The Oprah Magazine, Morrison shared what she believes the true work of being alive is, which is to help others.
"When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game," she once said.
Finding Your Inner Freedom
In her book, Home, Morrison described what it really means to find inner freedom, and to hold to it no matter the circumstance.
"Look to yourself. You free. Nothing and nobody is obliged to save you but you. Seek your own land. You young and a woman and there's serious limitation in both, but you are a person too. Don't let some trifling boyfriend and certainly no devil doctor decide who you are. That's slavery. Somewhere inside you is that free person I'm talking about. Locate her and let her do some good in the world."
The Necessity Of Words
Morrison believed that writing was not a gift to the world, it was essential to the world. "A writer's life and work are not a gift to mankind; they are its necessity," she wrote in The Source of Self-Regard.
Love & Respect Are Not The Same Thing
Morrison famously stated: "You don't have to love me but you damn well have to respect me" in her novel, God Help the Child.
To Surrender Is To Succeed
"If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it," Morrison wrote in Song of Solomon, inspiring us all to remember that to relax into life, to trust life, is also to thrive in life.
The Beauty Of The World Is Enough
Though it was written before the days of Instagram, in Tar Baby, Morrison described how eventually, the beauty of the world must be enough for you.
“At some point in life the world's beauty becomes enough. You don't need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough," she wrote. "No record of it needs to be kept and you don't need someone to share it with or tell it to. When that happens — that letting go — you let go because you can.”
Anger Is A Useless Emotion
During an interview with CBS in 1987, according to HuffPost, Morrison shared why she feels anger does not empower, rather, belittles the one who holds it.
"Anger… it’s a paralyzing emotion," she began. "People sort of think it’s an interesting, passionate, and igniting feeling, I don’t think it’s any of that, it’s helpless… it’s absence of control. I have no use for it whatsoever."
Morrison's legacy, aside from being a triumph for Black communities, women and writers alike, will also be in her tremendous contributions toward bettering the world through improving the way that every one of us thinks about love, strength, endurance, and what it means to truly be alive.