Dietrich Bonhoeffer - Steps on the path to freedom (“Stationen auf dem Weg zur Freiheit”, English translation)

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I have translated the original version of this poem by Dietrich Bonhoeffer to increase the visibility of the piece. It is less known than his “Von guten Mächten” of which there are several translations already available.

Steps on the path to freedom by Dietrich Bonhoeffer


If you set out to seek freedom, learn above all discipline of the senses and of your soul so that your desires and your limbs do not lead you here and there.
Chaste be your spirit and your body, entirely subject to yourself, and obedient in seeking the goal set for it.
No one experiences the secret of freedom, except through discipline.


Do not what is arbitrary, but do and dare what is right; Do not float in the possible, but seize bravely what is real; For not in the flight of thought, only in action, lies freedom.
Step out of anxious hesitation into the storm of events, carried only by God's commandment and your faith, and freedom will embrace your spirit rejoicing.

(turn page!)


Wonderful transformation. The firm, active hands are bound to you.
Powerless and alone, you see the end of your act.
But you breathe a sigh of relief and put the right thing quietly and confidently into a stronger hand and are satisfied.
For only a moment, you touched freedom blissfully; then, you surrendered it to God so that He could complete it gloriously.


Come now, the highest feast on the way to eternal freedom,
lay down the heavy chains and walls of our perishable body and our blinded soul, so that we may finally see what we are not allowed to see here.
Freedom, you, we have long sought in discipline and in deed and in suffering.
Dying, we now recognize you in the face of God.

Dear Eberhard! I wrote these lines this evening in a few hours. They are quite raw, yet they may make you a little happy, and they are something like your own birthday present! Cordially!

Your Dietrich

I see this morning that I have to completely rewrite the verses. Nevertheless, they may go so raw to you. I’m no poet!

Freedom Suffering Death Discipline Action