“Purity of heart is to will one thing.” -Kierkegaard

I used to find Kierkegaard’s words mysterious. If purity of heart is to will one thing, what should that solitary focus be upon?


As a child I believed that one thing was God. The problem with that approach was that my idea of God was an extension of myself. It was perhaps my highest and best thought, but it was still built around me and what I needed. My idea of God, therefore, put me in conflict with others.


Many people turn to religion as a hiding place. I once knew a man who suffered from depression. He stopped coming to church because he did not want to hear about the world’s problems. “How can I care about world when I can’t even hold my head above water?” He had no idea that the narrowness of his concern was what kept him feeling isolated and helpless. He was like a flower that, in closing in on itself, had turned from the sun which gave it energy.


Kierkegaard’s famous words are no longer a mystery to me. While I cannot claim to know what he meant by the words, to me they are perfectly clear. When Kierkegaard says, “purity of heart is to will one thing,” he is speaking of the freedom that comes from living in the common life and seeking the common good. It does not mean focusing on any one thing, it means living in the whole. If we use the symbol “God” it should be an idea that lifts us past every partial desire and gives us a vision of our common life with all.