35 Inspirational Social Work Quotes to Motivate You in the New Year

As a social worker, you pour your heart into creating positive change for individuals, families, and communities. Your role impacts lives profoundly each day, but this crucially important work doesn’t come without its emotional tolls. The new year provides an opportune moment to restart with renewed motivation and reaffirm your driving passions. Sometimes, that spark comes from internalizing succinct but wise words of inspiration. To energize you for the year ahead, I’ve curated this powerful collection of 35 Inspirational Social Work Quotes from respected leaders, trailblazers, activists, influential figures, and even fellow social workers who intimately understand your unique struggles and triumphs. 

Inspirational Social Work Quotes

The 35 inspirational quotes are divided into the following sections:

  1. Celebrating the Power and Purpose of Social Work
  2. Resilience and Perseverance in the Face of Adversity
  3. Cultivating Empathy, Compassion, and Human Connection
  4. Fighting for Justice, Equality, and Human Rights  
  5. Reflections on the Joy of Service and Giving Back
  6. Social Workers as Catalysts for Positive Change
  7. Wisdom from Fellow Social Work Pioneers and Leaders

1. Celebrating the Power and Purpose of Social Work

  1. “Social work is the art of listening and the science of hope.” – Unknown

These simple yet profound words capture the essence of your role – providing hope through compassionate presence.

2. “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” – John F. Kennedy

When problems seem insurmountable, remember that even individual efforts can create exponential positive change.

3. “Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. It is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

This truth should empower you as evidence that small but dedicated groups like social workers can enact society’s most remarkable transformations.

4. “An injustice to one is an injustice to all.” – Montesquieu

In just seven words, the French philosopher underscores social workers’ imperative to challenge all inequities, as even isolated injustices diminish human dignity for all.

5. “The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.” – Paulo Coelho

Positive change stems from having the fortitude to lead through virtuous action rather than hollow rhetoric or aimless critique.  

2. Resilience and Perseverance in the Face of Adversity

6. “Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it.” – Winston Churchill  

These uplifting words beautifully capture the resilience needed to soar by steadfastly pushing against resistance.

6. “She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.” – Elizabeth Edwards  

An empowering metaphor about the unwavering perseverance and adaptability required to succeed amidst inevitable life challenges.  

8. “When you get into a tight place, and everything goes against you, till it seems you cannot hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that’s just the place and time that the tide will turn.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe

Stowe’s encouragement articulates refusing to surrender during the most strenuous circumstances because that’s precisely when positive change often finally emerges.

9. “Fall seven times, stand up eight.” – Chinese Proverb

A succinct mantra on the undeterrable tenacity required to outlast any and all obstacles you’ll undoubtedly confront in this trying profession.

3. Cultivating Empathy, Compassion, and Human Connection

10. “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – The Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama’s beautiful simplicity reveals the reciprocal, self-reinforcing joy from cultivating unconditional empathy.  

11. “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our suffering.” – Henri Nouwen

This perspective underscores how powerful authentic compassion is – healing often comes from simply bearing witness versus issuing directives.

12. “Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals.” – Pema Chodron

Chodron highlights that empathy stems from bonding as peers on equal footing in our shared humanity, not a hierarchy of helper and helpless.  

13. “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” – Leo Buscaglia  

These wise words validate how even small gestures of compassion can generate immense, life-altering positive change—the essence of social work.

14. “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” – Mother Teresa

The revered nun’s insight reveals how judgment inhibits the empathy and compassion required to support others through unconditional acceptance truly.

4. Fighting for Justice, Equality and Human Rights

15. “The ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where they stand at times of challenge and controversy.” – Martin Luther King Jr.  

Dr. King’s words should inspire social workers to have the courage to consistently stand up and fight for what’s right when facing injustice or opposition.  

16. “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

In just one powerful line, Dr. King articulates social work’s driving purpose—eliminating societal inequities to achieve authentic, enduring peace and equality.

17. “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” – Elie Wiesel

Wiesel’s searing truth highlights that neutrality represents passive support of injustice. As social workers, we have a moral obligation to speak up resolutely.

18. “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” – Angela Davis  

Activist Angela Davis’ declaration should embolden you to confront unacceptable injustices head-on as an empowered changemaker.

19. “I raise my voice so I can shout but so that those without a voice can be heard…we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.” – Malala Yousafzai

The activist’s words validate using your voice to advocate for the voiceless and catalyze reforms that uplift entire communities.

5. Reflections on the Joy of Service and Giving Back

20. “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” – Martin Luther King Jr. 

This thought-provoking question from Dr. King centers on deriving life’s deepest meaning and satisfaction through selfless service, which embodies social work.

21. “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi’s wisdom reveals how immersing ourselves in meeting others’ needs ultimately allows us to become our most realized, purposeful selves.

22. “No one is more cherished in this world than someone who lightens the burden of another.” – Author Unknown  

This is a beautiful reminder that society’s most valuable members are those, like dedicated social workers, who help shoulder others’ difficulties.

23. “There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people.” – John Andrew Holmes

This uplifting quote highlights how the simple yet profound act of compassionately empowering others provides unparalleled emotional fulfillment.

24. “Life becomes harder for us when we live for others, but it also becomes richer and happier.” – Albert Schweitzer

Schweitzer reveals the paradoxical sacrifice of a life in social service – it extracts a heavy personal toll yet instills maximum joy and purpose.

6. Social Workers as Catalysts for Positive Change  

25. “Nothing will work unless you do.” – Maya Angelou

Three simple yet powerful words affirm that positive change requires your steadfast efforts to manifest it into reality.

26. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

This truth should embolden you about social workers’ capacity to collectively enact society’s most vital reforms through passionate, sustained action.

27. “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe  

This simple mantra prevents inaction by showing you can drive progress by taking steps right now, right where you stand, with present resources.

28. “The world as it is is not the world as it has to be.” – Zachariah

7. Wisdom from Fellow Social Work Pioneers and Leaders

29. “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

These immortal words from Gandhi should inspire social workers to embody the virtuous transformation they want to manifest in society.

30. “Ignoring your passion is like dying a slow death…Passion whispers to you through your feelings, beckoning you toward your highest good.” – Oprah Winfrey  

With characteristic candor, Oprah affirms reconnecting with your driving passions as an internal compass guiding your most impactful work.

31. “Social work is the only profession for which a life of perpetual reverence for human beings is the labor.” – Pearl M. Bailey

Bailey eloquently elevates the social work role as an unending labor of reverence for preserving human dignity in all your efforts.  

32. “Social workers are agents of change who provide a voice for the disadvantaged and disenfranchised members of society.” – Dorothy I. Height 

This perspective from pioneering activist Dorothy Height captures how social workers counter oppression by empowering society’s marginalized through advocacy.

33. “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.” – Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa’s wise strategy to maximize impact fights burnout – focus energy on uplifting one life at a time by prioritizing those closest.

34. “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” – Mother Teresa

Another insight from Mother Teresa underscores that significant positive change emerges from seemingly small, humble individual efforts compounded.

35. “Nothing can be worse than the fear that one had given up too soon and left one unexpended effort which might have transformed the world.” – Jane Addams  

Addams’ words should galvanize social workers to persevere steadfastly through any frustration, as prematurely surrendering prevents potentially world-changing impact.

Read more: 30+ Encouraging Quotes For Social Workers


These 35 inspirational social work quotes spanning cultures, disciplines, and eras should leave you feeling reinvigorated and resolute about the monumental importance of your life’s work as a social worker. The highlighted wisdom celebrates qualities at social work’s heart – resilient perseverance, empowered compassion, ethical advocacy, servant leadership, and an audacious conviction to keep fighting for human dignity and societal reform.  

Most importantly, though, allow these concentrated insights on values like justice, empathy, and selfless service to drive your dedicated efforts to uplift the lives of your clients, communities, and society. Social change starts with the empowered actions of a few passionate individuals like yourself. Keep pushing forward – your committed work makes an immeasurable positive impact.

Meet Manicka

I created The Social Work Success Path blog and podcast, during the pandemic of 2021 to provide online education and mentorship for Social Workers. I felt very isolated and disconnected being only in the second year of running my private practice. I strongly considered going back to work when everything shut down. The resources and tools that I share helped me to maintain my practice through the pandemic and plan a successful transition as a Social Work content creator, doing work that I love and connecting with Social Workers all around the world. I did this in the span of 1 year, but using the resources, trainings and tools that I have pulled together, and all my all lessons learned, you can make your career transition much sooner than I did!

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