Nothing Worth Doing

Nothing Worth Doing

1. Nothing worth doing can we complete in our lifetime.
Can we complete in the span, the span of our days.
And so we are saved by hope.
We must be saved by hope,
The fuel of the heart.

2. Nothing of beauty is wholly seen at its birthing.
Is wholly seen at the dawn, the dawn of its day.
And so we are saved by trust
We must be saved by trust
The jewel of the soul.

3. Nothing we do can we achieve on our own.
Can we achieve on our own, no struggle won alone.
And so we are saved by love.
We must be saved by love,
The weaver of the whole.

4. Acting with virtue, we are not seen quite so pure.
We are not seen quite so pure by foe nor friend.
And so we must be saved by forgiveness.
In forgiveness we are saved
And shown the way of peace.


Lyrics adapted from a passage (page 63) in The Irony of American History, by Reinhold Niebuhr (1952). Reprinted and adapted with the permission of the Estate of Reinhold Niebuhr.
Words and music by Bret Hesla.
© 2005 Bret Hesla.  All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Licensed via,  Contact:
Recorded with Linda Breitag (fiddle, vocal) and Tom Witt (piano), on What We Do (CD 2008)

Most of us would like to think that, on our better days, we and our organizations might embody one small piece of the long arc of history bending toward justice. But it’s sure easy to despair in the length of that arc. These words of Reinhold Neibuhr have helped me:
“Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.”

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