Buechner: “My own heart let me more have pity on.”

62 (3D Effect) (2018)

“My own heart let me more have pity on.”
By Frederick Buechner

I certainly am always at war one way or another with myself, and some of them are wars I must fight to try to slay the demons, to kill the dragon, to lay the ghost to rest. But there are other wars you fight with yourself that are really not worth fighting at all. The war to make yourself be more, do more than you have it in you really to do or to be. I think of that wonderful line from one of the poems of my beloved Gerard Manley Hopkins where he says, “My own heart let me more have pity on.” My own heart let me more have pity on. That’s a lovely phrase. Be merciful to yourself, stop fighting yourself quite so much. Maybe what you are asking of yourself, what you’re driving yourself to do or to be, what you put a gun to your own back to make yourself do, is something at this point you needn’t have to think about doing.

• Frederick Buechner, The Remarkable Ordinary (p. 111)

7 thoughts on “Buechner: “My own heart let me more have pity on.”

  1. That’s one of my favorites of yours I’ve read. If we were at a poetry slam, my fingers would be snapping.


  2. Peace

    When will you ever, Peace, wild wooddove, shy wings shut,
    Your round me roaming end, and under be my boughs?
    When, when, Peacè, will you, Peace? I’ll not play hypocrite
    To own my heart: I yield you do come sometimes; but
    That piecemeal peace is poor peace. What pure peace allows
    Alarms of wars, the daunting wars, the death of it?

    O surely, reaving Peace, my Lord should leave in lieu
    Some good! And so he does leave Patience exquisite,
    That plumes to Peace thereafter. And when Peace here does house
    He comes with work to do, he does not come to coo,
    He comes to brood and sit.


  3. your explanation adds greatly to the pathos of his words ‘my own heart let me more have pity on’. . . . .


  4. Hopkins actually had a really sad life. He wrote amazing poetry that has helped countless Christians over the centuries to draw closer to God, but at many times he was convinced that writing poetry was an evil temptation he had to resist. He felt that what God wanted him to do was to erase himself from the world instead of expressing himself. (He was gay and seems to have felt that that sort of self-erasure was the only way to make himself acceptable to God.)


  5. once at counselor’s office, I asked ‘what am I supposed to be focused on here?’ and the reply came:
    ‘just begin, just talk, the salient points will come out’

    and I understood this when it happened that just having the courage to ‘begin’ to speak eventually gave a way to something of what troubled, as what had had no words was able to find expression in time

    so it seems that Buechner also understood this, when he wrote:
    “you enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.”

    still, there is this mystery that I think, in His great mercy, only God alone can fathom:
    ” the heart has its reasons, that reason may not comprehend” (Blaise Pascal)


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