Your Children Are Living Arrows


Illustration by Kahlil Gibran

I love this prose piece by Kahlil Gibran from The Prophet. As my daughter turns thirty and advances confidently in the direction of her dreams, I find even more meaning in it.


Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts, 

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, 
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, 
but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children 
as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, 
and He bends you with His might 
that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let our bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, 
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Here is a simple yet powerful exercise that helped me cherish my daughter’s youth even as the years flew by.

Click here to view all my posts about parenting.


Phil is the author of Through God’s Eyes: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Troubled World, a comprehensive guide to living a spiritual life. Who will benefit from reading it?

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8 Responses to “Your Children Are Living Arrows”

  1. Kate Says:

    When I discovered this piece in the early 70s, I was drawn to it on a very deep level, though I never thought I would have children of my own. It resonated with me as I considered my own life and the lives of others. When I knew I was going to have a child, it became a reminder, a beacon, that directed me in my mothering. Thanks for posting this.

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    I am grateful that you were the bow that fired the living arrow of our girl!

  3. Catherine Nagle Says:

    Beautiful!…Thank you, Phil!

    I love this. And can understand its sacred truths with every year my children mature.

    Thank You for the privilege to read these words once more!

    “Happy 30th Birthday to your daughter!:-)”

    Catherine Nagle

  4. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thank you, Catherine! I know that lots of people love this piece and are glad to encounter it again!

  5. jeanski Says:

    My husband teaches philosophy at a university he has this book too The Prophet by Khalil Gibran, i love this. We have 3 teenaged kids. Sometimes we get too busy… and then realize just how fast the years went by… and whoa! they’re all grown up. It’s always a good thing to stop and do some reflection.
    Happy Birthday to your daughter.

  6. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thank you, Jeanski. Yes, reflection helps us cherish the moments we do have with our kids even as the years fly by!

  7. mel Says:

    Mr. Phil Bolsta,

    This is the poem of Kahlil Gibran I love most! Thanks for posting it in your blog. I can relate to this poem spiritually and emotionally. This means a lot to me as an offspring of my parents. I hope they could understand me, that I’m grown up now and that I could make decisions on my own as long as it would not harm anyone.

  8. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Yes, a lot of parents have a hard time letting go and viewing their living arrows as adults in their own right. Good luck, Mel!

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