Maya Angelou Quotes and Sayings

These are inspirational, motivational, wise, and funny Maya Angelou quotes, sayings, and proverbs that inspire us. See more quotes by topic on Quotelicious.

  • Full name: Maya Angelou
  • Born: April 4, 1928
  • Born in: St. Louis, Missouri, United States
  • Died: May 28, 2014
  • Died in: Winston-Salem, North Carolina, United States
  • Occupation: American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist
  • Height: 6ft 0in (183 cm)
  • Weight: 68kg
  • Net worth: $10 million

I know that when I pray, something wonderful happens. Not just to the person or persons for whom I’m praying, but also something wonderful happens to me. I’m grateful that I’m heard.

 

My greatest blessing has been the birth of my son. My next greatest blessing has been my ability to turn people into children of mine.

 

If you must look back, do so forgivingly. If you will look forward, do so prayerfully. But the wisest course would be to be present in the present gratefully.

They may have forgotten how badly they treated you, or they may pretend that they have forgotten. But watch: They will come back to you.

 

We can learn to see each other and see ourselves in each other and recognize that human beings are more alike than we are unalike.

 

While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God’s creation.

You can’t get too high for somebody to bring you down.

 

Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.

I’m happy…I laugh as much as I can and cry when I have to, without apology. I think that’s happy.

 

Peace means when there is conflict, use our common sense and our compassion to consider rest of humanity, our human brothers and sisters.

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.

 

Human beings are like some plants. If we pause a few seconds in our journey, we begin setting down roots, tendrils that entangle other people as we ourselves are entangled.

 

On this platform of peace, we can create a language to translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

 

At fifteen life had taught me undeniably that surrender, in its place, was as honorable as resistance, especially if one had no choice.

 

Everyone has at least one story, and each of us is funny if we admit it. You have to admit you’re the funniest person you’ve ever heard of.

In all my work, I try to say, ‘You may be given a load of sour lemons, why not try to make a dozen lemon meringue pies?’

 

I’m here, and I do my best to be completely centered at the place I’m at, then I go forward to the next place.

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.

 

I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels.

 

Let nothing dim the light that shines from within.

I learned a long time ago the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side, be an advocate for myself and others like me.

 

I wish we could stop the little lies. I don’t mean that one has to be brutally frank. I don’t believe that we should be brutal about anything, however, it is wonderfully liberating to be honest. One does not have to tell all that one knows, but we should be careful what we say is the truth.

 

In diversity there is beauty and there is strength.

 

Always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy.

 

Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.

 

Life loves the liver of it.

 

Do the best you can do till you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.

 

I believe that each of us comes from the Creator trailing wisps of glory.

 

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.

 

When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.

 

Whatever you want to do, if you want to be great at it, you have to love it and be able to make sacrifices for it.

 

Find a beautiful piece of art. If you fall in love with Van Gogh or Matisse or John Oliver Killens, or if you fall love with the music of Coltrane, the music of Aretha Franklin, or the music of Chopin – find some beautiful art and admire it, and realize that that was created by human beings just like you, no more human, no less.

 

A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.

 

We allow our ignorance to prevail upon us and make us think we can survive alone, alone in patches, alone in groups, alone in races, even alone in genders.

 

We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.

 

I respect myself and insist upon it from everybody. And because I do it, I then respect everybody, too.

 

There is nothing a person can’t do, and there should be nothing a human being didn’t care about. It was the most positive encouragement I could have hoped for.

 

I know for sure that loves saves me and that it is here to save us all.

 

I work very hard, and I play very hard. I’m grateful for life. And I live it – I believe life loves the liver of it. I live it.

 

I believe we are still so innocent. The species are still so innocent that a person who is apt to be murdered believes that the murderer, just before he puts the final wrench on his throat, will have enough compassion to give him one sweet cup of water.

 

Believe people when they tell you who they are. They know themselves better than you.

 

Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.

 

Seek patience and passion in equal amounts. Patience alone will not build the temple. Passion alone will destroy its walls.

 

It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.

 

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.

 

I learned that to be charitable with gestures and words can bring enormous joy and repair injured feelings.

 

All great achievements require time.

 

If you’re always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.

 

What is a fear of living? It’s being preeminently afraid of dying. It is not doing what you came here to do, out of timidity and spinelessness. The antidote is to take full responsibility for yourself – for the time you take up and the space you occupy. If you don’t know what you’re here to do, then just do some good.

 

Effective action is always unjust.

 

If I am not good to myself, how can I expect anyone else to be good to me?

 

I love the song ‘I Hope You Dance’ by Lee Ann Womack. I was going to write that song, but someone beat me to it.

 

I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.

 

There’s something which impels us to show our inner souls. The more courageous we are, the more we succeed in explaining what we know.

 

It’s hard because people think they have something to lose and the truth is they have everything to gain in trying to love somebody.

 

Take as much time as you need to make up your mind, but once it is made up, step out on your decision like it’s something you want.

 

Faith is the evidence of the unseen.

 

Nothing will work unless you do.

 

As far as I knew white women were never lonely, except in books. White men adored them, Black men desired them and Black women worked for them.

 

How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!

 

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.

 

Success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it.

 

There is nothing so pitiful as a young cynic because he has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing.

 

Since time is the one immaterial object which we cannot influence – neither speed up nor slow down, add to nor diminish – it is an imponderably valuable gift.

 

Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it.

 

Every day I awaken I am grateful. My intent is to be totally present in that day. And laugh as much as possible.

 

Achievement brings its own anticlimax.

 

Most plain girls are virtuous because of the scarcity of opportunity to be otherwise.

 

I had to trust life, since I was young enough to believe that life loved the person who dared to live it.

 

Remember, people will judge you by your actions not your intentions. You may have a heart of gold but so does a hard-boiled egg.

 

The more you know of your history, the more liberated you are.

 

I believe that every person is born with talent.

 

All men are prepared to accomplish the incredible if their ideals are threatened.

 

All great artists draw from the same resource: the human heart, which tells us all that we are more alike than we are unalike.

 

My life has been one great big joke, a dance that’s walked a song that’s spoke, I laugh so hard I almost choke when I think about myself.

 

History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.

 

I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.

 

All knowledge is spendable currency, depending on the market.

 

You can’t forgive without loving. And I don’t mean sentimentality. I don’t mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, ‘I forgive. I’m finished with it.

 

You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.

 

Take a day to heal from the lies you’ve told yourself and the ones that have been told to you.

 

If we lose love and self respect for each other, this is how we finally die.

 

I find relief from the questions only when I concede that I am not obliged to know everything. I remind myself it is sufficient to know what I know, and that what I know, may not always be true.

 

There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the truth.

 

Self-pity in its early stage is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable.

 

Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.

 

I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.

 

Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.

 

Courage – you develop courage by doing small things like just as if you wouldn’t want to pick up a 100-pound weight without preparing yourself.

 

There is a very fine line between loving life and being greedy for it.

 

My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy. That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent than college professors.

 

I make writing as much a part of my life as I do eating or listening to music.

 

Don’t let the incidents which take place in life bring you low. And certainly don’t whine. You can be brought low, that’s OK, but don’t be reduced by them. Just say, ‘That’s life.’

 

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

 

I’m convinced of this: Good done anywhere is good done everywhere. For a change, start by speaking to people rather than walking by them like they’re stones that don’t matter. As long as you’re breathing, it’s never too late to do some good.

 

I am grateful to have been loved and to be loved now and to be able to love.

 

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.

 

Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.

 

Loving someone liberates the lover as well as the beloved. And that kind of love comes with age.

 

Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.

 

Don’t get older just to get wiser. If you get older, you will be wiser, I believe that – if you dare. But get older because it’s fun!

 

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.

 

I created myself. I have taught myself so much.

 

Love is like a virus. It can happen to anybody at any time.

 

Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told: ‘I’m with you kid. Let’s go.’

 

Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.

 

One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.

 

It is a no-fail, incontrovertible reality: If you get, give. If you learn, teach. You can’t do anything with that except do it.

 

My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.

 

This a a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.

 

One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.

 

If you have only one smile in you give it to the people you love.

 

The only way out of something is all the way through it.

 

The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind.

 

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.

 

Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.

 

Children’s talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives.

 

I have respect for the past, but I’m a person of the moment.

 

If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities.

 

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.

 

In all my work what I try to say is that as human beings we are more alike than we are unalike.

 

It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.

 

While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God’s creation.

 

If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.

 

We must insist that the men and women who expect to lead us recognize the true desires of those who are being led.

 

For Africa to me… is more than a glamorous fact. It is a historical truth. No man can know where he is going unless he knows exactly where he has been and exactly how he arrived at his present place.

 

Nothing succeeds like success. Get a little success, and then just get a little more.

 

Some critics will write ‘Maya Angelou is a natural writer’ – which is right after being a natural heart surgeon.

 

The woman who truly intends to live a good life is already living phenomenally since intent is part of the achievement.

 

It’s hard to make the prettiest clothes fit a miserable man.

 

You may write me down in history with your bitter, twisted lines. You may trod me in the very dirt, but still, like dust, I’ll rise.

 

The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself.

 

My life has been long, and believing that life loves the liver of it, I have dared to try many things, sometimes trembling, but daring still.

 

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 wrote some of the worst poetry west from the Mississippi River, but I wrote. And I finally sometimes got it right.

 

Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.

 

A wise woman wishes to be no one’s enemy; a wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victim.

 

We begin to stop in order simply to begin again.

 

I know that when I pray, something wonderful happens. Not just to the person or persons for whom I’m praying, but also something wonderful happens to me. I’m grateful that I’m heard.

 

The fact that the adult American Negro female emerges a formidable character is often met with amazement, distaste and even belligerance. It is seldom accepted as an inevitable outcome of the struggle won by survivors, and deserves respect if not enthusiastic acceptance.

 

We write for the same reason that we walk, talk, climb mountains or swim the oceans – because we can. We have some impulse within us that makes us want to explain ourselves to other human beings. That’s why we paint, that’s why we dare to love someone – because we have the impulse to explain who we are.

 

I am grateful to be a woman. I must have done something great in another life.

 

My life has been one great big joke, a dance that’s walked, a song that’s spoke, I laugh so hard I almost choke when I think about myself.

 

No human being can be more human than another human being. I liberate you from my ignorance.

 

At 50, I began to know who I was. It was like waking up to myself.

 

Your reputation is the most important thing you’ll ever have. Not clothes, nor money, not the big cars you may drive. If your reputation is good, you can achieve anything you want in the world.

 

Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible…We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.

 

The sadness of the women’s movement is that they don’t allow the necessity of love. See, I don’t personally trust any revolution where love is not allowed.

 

I hope you always find a reason to smile.

 

I did then what I knew best, when I knew better, I did better.

 

If we don’t plant the right things, we will reap the wrong things. It goes without saying. And you don’t have to be, you know, a brilliant biochemist and you don’t have to have an IQ of 150. Just common sense tells you to be kind, ninny, fool. Be kind.

 

I swear to God, I rather you have a good mind than a cute behind.

 

Although I had no regrets, I told myself sadly that growing up was not the painless process one would have thought it to be.

 

There is nothing quite so tragic as a young cynic, because it means the person has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing.

 

You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.

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