Sermon quotes on attention

Augustine of Hippo

Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you.

George Washington Carver

When you can do the common things of life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.

G.K. Chesterton

I am not absentminded. It is the presence of mind that makes me unaware of everything else.

Winston Churchill

Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.

Paulo Coelho

All you have to do is to pay attention; lessons always arrive when you are ready.

Chip Heath and Dan Heath

The most basic way to get someone’s attention is this: Break a pattern.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Alexandra Horowitz

Attention is an intentional, unapologetic discriminator. It asks what is relevant right now, and gears us up to notice only that.

The Art of Looking: Eleven Ways of Viewing the Multiple Realities of Our Everyday Wonderland

William James

Everyone knows what attention is. It is taking possession of the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what seems several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought. …[human attention] is a withdrawal from some things in order to deal effectively with others, and is a condition which has a real opposite in the confused, dazed, scatterbrained state which in French is called “distraction.”

The Principles of Psychology, Henry Holt, 1890, 1:402-508.

William James

My experience is what I agree to attend to.

The Principles of Psychology

William James

Sustained attention is the easier, the richer in acquisitions and the fresher and more original the mind. In such minds, subjects bud and sprout and grow. At every moment, they please by a new consequence and rivet the attention afresh.

The Principles of Psychology

Timothy Keller

The ego is incredibly busy – in other words, it is always drawing attention to itself. It is incredibly busy trying to fill the emptiness. And it is incredibly busy doing two things in particular – comparing and boasting.

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, 2017, 10 Publishing, p. 17.

Jay Y. Kim

According to a research study funded by Microsoft, between 2000 and 2015 the average attention span decreased from twelve seconds to eight seconds.

C.S. Lewis

The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of. Our attention would have been on God.

Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer”, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002, p.8.

Mary Oliver

To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.

Keanu Reeves

The simple act of paying attention can take you a long way.

Tony Reinke

Two theaters compete for our gaze: the theater of sin on earth and the theater of glory where Christ is.

Taken from Competing Spectacles by Tony Reinke, © 2019, p,88. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.

Kurt Vonnegut

Our awareness is all that is alive and maybe sacred in any of us. Everything else about us is dead machinery.

Ann Voskamp

When I fully enter time’s swift current, enter into the current moment with the weight of all my attention, I slow the torrent with the weight of me all here.

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

Thomas Watson

Be not only attentive in hearing, but retentive after hearing.

Simone Weil

Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.

Letter to Joë Bousquet on April 13, 1942. “Correspondence”, published by Editions l’Age d’Homme in Lausanne, p. 18, 1982.

Tim Wu

Since the rise of capitalism, it has been known that capturing someone’s attention could cause him to part with some money.

The Attention Merchants, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2016, p. 27.

Tim Wu

Beginning with radio, each new medium would attain its commercial viability through the resale of what attention it could capture in exchange for its “free” content.

The Attention Merchants, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2016, p. 6.

(Weird) Al Yankovic

I don’t really look at myself as the kind of person who craves attention, but I’ve never been to therapy so there’s probably a lot of stuff about myself that I don’t know.

Mary Oliver

Attention is the beginning of devotion.

Upstream: Selected Essays (New York: Penguin, 2016), from “Section One: Upstream.”

Norman Wirzba

Practicing attention, people can now receive their world as a place of belonging.

Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating, Cambridge University Press, 2012.


Frederick Buechner

Listen for God, stop and watch and wait for him. To love God means to pay attention, be mindful, be open to the possibility that God is with you in ways that, unless you have your eyes open, you may never glimpse. He speaks words that, unless you have your ears open, you may never hear. Draw near to him as best you can.

The Remarkable Ordinary: How to Stop, Look, and Listen to Life, Zondervan, 2017.

Andrew Arndt

I love that line. “Surely the LORD is in this place,” Jacob muses, “and I was not aware of it.” Isn’t that, more or less, the story with most of us, most of the time?

All Flame: Entering into the Life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, NavPress, 2020.

Alain de Botton

The attentions of others matter to us because we are afflicted by a congenital uncertainty as to our own value, as a result of which affliction we tend to allow others’ appraisals to play a determining role in how we see ourselves. Our sense of identity is held captive by the judgements of those we live among. If they are amused by our jokes, we grow confident in our power to amuse. If they praise us, we develop an impression of high merit. And if they avoid our gaze when we enter a room or look impatient after we have revealed our occupation, we may fall into feelings of self-doubt and worthlessness.

Status Anxiety (New York: Knopf, 2008), 8.

Knox McCoy

Too often we give real estate to things in our lives that either haven’t earned their land or were never meant to occupy important space in the first place.

All Things Reconsidered: How Rethinking What We Know Helps Us Know What We Believe, Thomas Nelson, 2020.

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