by Matt Price
I have never been a fan of inspirational quotes. They remind me of those posters that would blanket the walls of my elementary school’s classrooms. A weird looking giraffe with bright purple sunglasses situated underneath a word bubble that would say: “Never give up!” Even as a kid I was put off by these half-assed attempts to instill motivation. I would sit in class and stare up at these posters and wonder if anyone was truly inspired by this goofy giraffe. The anti-inspirational sentiment carried on through my formative years. I would see inspirational quotes from Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, or any other influential leader, and I would find myself asking if these individuals really said what was being attributed to them.
I had never felt moved by a quote; they all seemed the same. There was no real message behind them, only abstract notions like “Be true to yourself” or “Believing is achieving.” There seemed to be a deafening cacophony of quotes that were telling me to live my dreams and be my true self. But they never offered any substance; they never stuck with me.
It was a surprise then, when I found a quote that did bring a rise out of me. It was a Martin Luther quote from his trial in Worms. Luther said, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” It’s so good I almost want to write it again. I was shocked to be gripped by these words so fiercely. Perhaps I saw it at the right age or time. Maybe I was exceptionally tired, and my usual anti-inspirational-quote defenses were taking a much-needed break. Whatever the case may be, the Luther quote has stuck with me in a way no other quote has.
Why then did this quote, in the sea of quotes from an endless stream of influential people, make me pause and think?
Besides the fact that I grew up in the Lutheran Church, reading Luther’s small catechism for confirmation class, this quote has undeniable power behind it. Luther was on trial for his audacity to challenge the church on certain practices, and this is what he declared. In the face of his opponents, Luther stated that he was unable to do anything else but stand before them. He was unable to renounce what he had said, only to stand firm in his beliefs. This tremendous act of courage speaks volumes.
For me, this quote translates to a lot more than a trial setting. I may never stand before a judge or jury and refuse to recant my actions, but that does not get at the heart of the quote’s message. The quote speaks to a certain kind of existentialism, one that has quelled the dread that I sometimes feel about my own existence. There are so many things that are out of my control. There are so many things that make me want to live in my parents’ basement, eating peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches for the rest of my life. But I can’t. I can’t because I am here, at the start of my adult life. I know there will be challenges that test me, and issues that might break me, but I stand before them. I lean into the uncertainty. To do otherwise would be a disservice to myself.
Here, on February 17th, 2022, I stand courageously waiting to see what my future holds. I can do no other.