Some Favorite Quotes about Life


“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” Martin Luther King Jr.

“Power never concedes anything without a demand. It never has and it never will.” Frederick Douglass

“Publicity, discussion, and agitation are necessary to accomplish any work of lasting benefit.” Robert M. La Follette

“Real change never comes from the top on down. It always comes from the bottom on up, when ordinary people stand up and fight back.” Bernie Sanders

“No fight for civil liberties ever stays won.” Roger Baldwin

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Wendell Phillips


“If we think happy thoughts, we will be happy. If we think miserable thoughts, we will be miserable.” Dale Carnegie

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Viktor Frankl

“The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past . . . we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. . . . I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” Charles Swindoll

“Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.” Helen Keller

“This, in my judgment, is the highest philosophy: First, do not regret having lost yesterday; second, do not fear that you will lose tomorrow; third, enjoy today.” Robert Ingersoll


“All things and all people in life have to sink or swim on their own merits, not their reputation; that just as a wise man can say a foolish thing, a fool can say something wise.” Vincent Bugliosi

“Disciplined adherence to authority, when viewed as an end in itself, has led to the most horrible atrocities. History is replete with examples of how otherwise decent people, when conditioned to follow orders regardless of their personal reservations, can be led to massacre men, women and children.” Joseph Daleiden

“Blind obedience is a sure sign of trouble. The likelihood of religion becoming evil is greatly diminished when there is freedom for individual thinking and when honest inquiry is encouraged.” Charles Kimbal

“The only reliable thing that can be said about human knowledge is that it is, and can be, only partial. This simple truth has enormous consequences, because it means that any form of authoritarianism, whether intellectual or political, is based on the false premise that one person or system has all the answers.” Susan Ford Wiltshire

“Is it not the glory of the people of America, that whilst they have paid a decent regard to the opinions of former times and other nations, they have not suffered a blind veneration for antiquity, for custom, or for names, to overrule the suggestions of their own good sense, the knowledge of their own situation, and the lessons of their own experience? To this manly spirit, posterity will be indebted for the possession, and the world for the example of the numerous innovations displayed on the American theater, in favor of private rights and public happiness.” James Madison


“A generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men, of men unduly divorced from the slow processes of nature.” Bertrand Russell

“The cure for boredom is curiosity.” Ellen Parr


“Bragging actually dilutes the positive feelings you receive from an accomplishment or something you are proud of. To make matters worse, the more you try to prove yourself, the more others will avoid you, talk behind your back about your insecure need to brag, and perhaps even resent you.” Richard Carlson

“Who knows himself a braggart,
Let him fear this; for it will come to pass
That every braggart will be found an ass.” Shakespeare


“In the name of certainty, the greatest crimes have been committed against humanity.” Carlos Fuentes

“Madness is the result not of uncertainty but certainty.” Friedrich Nietzsche

“Most of the greatest evils that man has inflicted upon man have come through people feeling quite certain about something which, in fact, was false. To know the truth is more difficult than most men suppose, and to act with ruthless determination in the belief that truth is the monopoly of their party is to invite disaster.” Bertrand Russell

“The persecuting spirit has its origin . . . in the assumption that one’s own opinions are infallibly correct.” John Fiske

“We have been cocksure of many things that were not so.” Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

“Absolute certainty will always elude us. We will always be mired in error. The most each generation can hope for is to reduce the error. . . .” Carl Sagan

“The spirit of liberty is jeopardized by too much certitude, by too much righteousness, and by an unwillingness or incapacity to stand in another’s shoes.” Geoffrey Amstoy

“The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right. . . .” Judge Learned Hand

“‘I beseech ye . . . , think that ye may be mistaken.’ I should like to have that written over the portals of every church, every school, and every courthouse, and, may I say, of every legislative body in the United States. I should like to have every court begin, ‘I beseech ye . . . , think that we may be mistaken.'” Judge Learned Hand


“The soft-minded man always fears change. He feels security in the status quo, and he has an almost morbid fear of the new. For him, the greatest pain is the pain of a new idea.” Martin Luther King Jr.

“Contented acquiescence in the ordering that has come down to us from the past is selfish and antisocial, because amid the ceaseless change that is inevitable . . .  the institutions of the past demand progressive re-adaptations.” John Morley

“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.” Gail Sheehy

“The foolish and the dead alone never change their opinions.” James Russell Lowell

“Having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions . . . which I once thought right but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment and to pay more respect to the judgment of others.” Benjamin Franklin

“If a man would register all his opinions upon love, politics, religion, learning, etc., beginning from his youth and so go on to old age, what a bundle of inconsistencies and contradictions would appear at last!” Jonathan Swift


“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Martin Luther King Jr.

“Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.” James Michener

“Nothing discloses character like the use of power.” Robert Ingersoll

“The measure of a man’s real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out.” Thomas B. Macaulay

“It is our choice of good or evil that determines our character, not our opinion about good or evil.” Aristotle


“If the reason I give is a good one, you will act upon it. If it is a bad one I cannot make it better by piling epithet upon epithet. There is no logic in abuse; there is no argument in an epithet.” Robert Ingersoll

“Arguments cannot be answered with insults. . . .  Kindness is strength. . . . Anger blows out the lamp of the mind. In the examination of a great and important question, every one should be serene, slow-pulsed, and calm.” Robert Ingersoll

“The aim of argument should not be victory, but progress.” Karl Popper

“If you and I want to stir up a resentment tomorrow that may rankle across the decades and endure until death, just let us indulge in a little stinging criticism – no matter how certain we are that it is justified.” Dale Carnegie

“Bitter criticism caused the sensitive Thomas Hardy, one of the finest novelists ever to enrich English literature, to give up forever the writing of fiction. Criticism drove Thomas Chatterton, the English poet, to suicide. . . . Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain – and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.” Dale Carnegie

“In the course of my observation, these disputing, contradicting and confuting people are generally unfortunate in their affairs. They get victory sometimes, but they never get good will, which would be of more use to them.” Benjamin Franklin

“Being aloof, gruff, or stern never got anyone anywhere. Who wants to be treated like that? Certainly not you. And surely not the people you meet.” Wayne Dosick

“Harmony in many settings is largely a consequence of the ability of participants to cushion their disagreements in a pleasant haze of humor, flattery, and kindness.” Shankar Vedantam and Bill Mesler

“Just because we disagree, doesn’t mean we have to be disagreeable.” Barry J. Levey

“Good manners are made up of petty sacrifices.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Aggression and resentment are contagious. But so, say both the great sages and the scientists, is kindness.” William Falk

“Cruelty hardens and degrades, kindness reforms and ennobles.” Robert Ingersoll

“If you can’t be kind, at least be vague.” Judith Martin

Common Sense

“One thing I have seen over and over again in life is that there is virtually no correlation between intelligence and common sense. IQ doesn’t seem to translate that way.” Vincent Bugliosi

“I’m sure it’s very obvious . . . how upset I am with incompetence and the lack of common sense in life. If I can sum up the reason . . . it’s that these characteristics are not benign. They are responsible for much, if not most, of the great problems, misery, and injustice in the world.” Vincent Bugliosi

“Common sense is not so common.” Voltaire

“We need education in the obvious more than investigation of the obscure.” Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.


“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution. . . .” Willa A. Foster

“Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration.” Thomas Edison

“A professional is a person who can do his best at a time when he doesn’t particularly feel like it.” Alistair Cooke

“The secret of joy in work is contained in one word – excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it.” Pearl S. Buck

“I have given before . . . the definition of happiness of the Greeks, and I will define it again: It is full use of your powers along lines of excellence.” John F. Kennedy


“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.” Mark Twain

“We become brave by doing brave acts.” Aristotle

“The greatest test of courage on the earth is to bear defeat without losing heart. That army is the bravest that can be whipped the greatest number of times and fight again.” Robert Ingersoll

“But courage in fighting is by no means the only form, nor perhaps even the most important. There is courage in facing poverty, courage in facing derision, courage in facing the hostility of one’s own herd. In these, the bravest soldiers are often lamentably deficient. And above all there is the courage to think calmly and rationally in the face of danger, and to control the impulse of panic fear or panic rage.” Bertrand Russell

“Courageous men never lose the zest for living even though their life situation is zestless; cowardly men, overwhelmed by the uncertainties of life, lose the will to live. We must constantly build dykes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.” Martin Luther King Jr.

“Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace. The soul that knows it not, knows no release from little things.” Amelia Earhart

“Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change.” Robert F. Kennedy


“He [The Improved Man] will enjoy not only the sunshine of life, but will bear with fortitude the darkest days. He will have no fear of death. About the grave, there will be no terrors, and his life will end as serenely as the sun rises.” Robert Ingersoll

“Upon the great questions of origin, of destiny, of immortality, of . . . other worlds, every honest man must say, ‘I do not know.’ Upon these questions, this is the creed of intelligence.” Robert Ingersoll

“The truth is that we simply do not know what happens after death.” Sam Harris

“The minister asks, ‘What right have you to hope? It is sacrilegious to you.’ But, whether the clergy like it or not, I shall always express my real opinion, and shall always be glad to say to those who mourn: ‘There is in death, as I believe, nothing worse than sleep. Hope for as much better as you can.'” Robert Ingersoll

“I cherish the fantasy, even the hope, of adventures in other realms to come. But how can we choke out that most precious of all gifts, life, with the rope of religion around our necks? It chokes out freedom with dogma. It pinions us to the stake of superstition.” Gerry Spence

Drugs and Alcohol

“Now the struggle for life is so sharp, competition is so severe, that few men can succeed who carry a useless burden. The businessmen of our country are compelled to lead temperate lives, otherwise their credit is gone.” Robert Ingersoll

“In the search for truth – that everything in nature seems to hide – man needs the assistance of all his faculties. All the senses should be awake.” Robert Ingersoll

“‘Tis easier to prevent bad habits than to break them.” Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Maxims

“What maintains one vice, would bring up two children.” Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Maxims


“To educate a person in mind but not in morals is to educate a menace to society.” Theodore Roosevelt

“The object of all education should be to increase the usefulness of man – usefulness to himself and others.” Robert Ingersoll

“As long as a man lives he should study. Death alone has the right to dismiss the school.” Robert Ingersoll

“Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.” Thomas Huxley

“A change in perspective is worth 80 IQ points.” Alan Kay

“Republics, one after another . . . have perished from a want of intelligence and virtue in the masses of the people. . . .” Horace Mann

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” Thomas Jefferson

“Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish. . . .” Thomas Jefferson

“This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate error so long as reason is free to combat it.” Thomas Jefferson, to prospective teachers, University of Virginia

“The devotion of democracy to education is a familiar fact. . . . [A] government resting upon popular suffrage cannot be successful unless those who elect . . . their governors are educated.” John Dewey


“When passions and appetites are stronger than the intellect, men are savages; when the intellect governs the passions, when the passions are servants, men are civilized. The people need education – facts – philosophy.” Robert Ingersoll

“Is not the history of real civilization the slow and gradual emancipation of the intellect, of the judgment, from the mastery of passion? Is not that man civilized whose reason sits the crowned monarch of his brain – whose passions are his servants?” Robert Ingersoll

“Remember that feelings or emotions emanate from the more ancient, less evolved, lower part of the human brain, while thoughts are a product of our highly evolved, uniquely human, outer part of the brain.” Laura Schlessinger

“It is impossible to overlook the extent to which civilization is built upon a renunciation of instinct.” Sigmund Freud

“We need to be in control of ourselves – our appetites, our passions – to do right by others. It takes will to keep emotion under the control of reason.” Thomas Lickona

“The [brain’s] cortex normally acts as a brake on strong emotions by applying reason, explanations, and definitions.” D. Theodore George, M.D.

“You have to take a step back and control your own emotional response because if you act out of emotional engagement, you are not thoughtful about your approach to the problem. By stepping back and taking a period of time to reflect, you enter a mental state that allows for a more thoughtful, reasonable, and discerned response.” Dr. James Doty, Stanford University neurosurgeon

“Educate your children to self-control, to the habit of holding passion and prejudice and evil tendencies subject to an upright and reasoning will, and you have done much to abolish misery from their future and crimes from society.” Benjamin Franklin

“Why should we desire the destruction of human passions? Take passions from human beings and what is left? The great object should be not to destroy passions, but to make them obedient to the intellect. To indulge passion to the utmost is one form of intemperance – to destroy passion is another. The reasonable gratification of passion under the domination of the intellect is true wisdom and perfect virtue.” Robert Ingersoll

“Though we [Humanists] take a strict position on what constitutes knowledge, we are not critical of the source of ideas. Often intuitive feelings, hunches, speculation, and flashes of inspiration prove to be excellent sources of novel approaches, new ways of looking at things, new discoveries, and new information. We do not disparage those ideas derived from religious experience, altered states of consciousness, or the emotions; we merely declare that testing these ideas against reality is the only way to determine their validity as knowledge.” Fred Edwords


“Love your enemies, for they tell you your faults.” Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Maxims

“I do not believe in loving enemies; I have pretty hard work to love my friends. Neither do I believe in revenge. No man can afford to keep the viper of revenge in his heart. But I believe in justice, in self-defense.” Robert Ingersoll

“Love your friends and be just to your enemies.” Robert Ingersoll

“Military necessity does not admit of cruelty – that is, the infliction of suffering for the sake of suffering or for revenge, . . . nor of torture to extort confessions.” Abraham Lincoln, from his instructions to the troops, April 1863

“That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury, stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law is one of the most significant tributes that Power has ever paid to Reason.” Justice Robert H. Jackson, from his opening statement as Chief U.S. Prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials


“Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful. . . . Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Let passion fill your sails, but let reason be your rudder.” Kahlil Gibran


“Modern Darwinism makes it abundantly clear that many less ruthless traits, some not always admired by robber barons and Fuhrers – altruism, general intelligence, compassion – may be the key to survival.” Carl Sagan

“During the last hundred years . . . scientists have made clear how cooperation is, in a very real sense, important to survival on many levels of life. Kropotkin pointed out how crucial to human and animal survival is the exercise of mutual aid. At least one paleontologist found in cooperation the grand strategy of evolution.” Lloyd and Mary Morain

“Evolutionary theory holds that our ability to sense when we should be suspicious has been every bit as essential for human survival as our capacity for trust and cooperation.” Daniel Goleman


“The benefits of exercise extend to all parts of the body, yielding boons from stronger muscles to a healthier heart to enhanced brain function. Conversely, lack of exercise carries serious health risks. . . .” Marc Bain

“Regular exercise improves your mood, decreases anxiety, improves sleep, improves resilience in the face of stress, and raises self-esteem.” Michael Craig Miller, M.D.

“Exercise conveys many positive brain-boosting benefits, including increasing blood flow to the brain, reducing inflammation, and helping stave off depression. For memory in particular, regular aerobic exercise has been shown to boost the size of your memory-critical hippocampus. . . .” Keith Blanchard

“[Exercise] stimulates your circulation, massages your internal organs, stretches and strengthens your muscles, and energizes you. Exercise is also a great way to discharge tension, work through emotional blocks, release anger, and gain self-esteem.” Ellen Bass and Laura Davis

“If you could put exercise in a pill, you’d be able to treat so many chronic conditions and diseases.” Roger Fielding, Ph.D.


“The selection process has been powerful enough to produce one indisputable outcome: the family is a universal human institution. . . . In virtually every society into which historians or anthropologists have inquired, one finds people living together on the basis of kinship ties and having responsibility for raising children. . . . Even in societies where men and women have relatively unrestricted sexual access to one another beginning at an early age, marriage is still the basis for family formation. It is desired by the partners and expected by society.” James Q. Wilson

“The family, for most of us, is a Haven in a Heartless World, a place where we can retire for rest and succor in the face of the relentless demands and challenges the outside world throws at us. . . .” Jeff Riggenbach

“[A child] needs home to be a haven where she can recharge her batteries, and where people in that home can help her understand, untangle, and accept (not necessarily agree with) the existence of the many strange behaviors of our world outside.” James Webb, Elizabeth Meckstroth and Stephanie Tolan

“Feelings of right and wrong that at first have their locus within the family gradually develop into a pattern for the tribe or city, then spread to the much larger unit of the nation, and finally from the nation to mankind as a whole.” Corliss Lamont

“Good company and good discourse are the very sinews of virtue.” Izaak Walton

“Nothing is so much needed as a secure family life for a people seeking to rise out of poverty and backwardness.” Martin Luther King Jr.

“The rights of men and women should be equal and sacred – marriage should be a perfect partnership – children should be governed by kindness. . . .” Robert Ingersoll

“Boys are more likely to develop a masculine personality and acquire strong moral standards when they have a loving and nurturant rather than a threatening or fear-inspiring father.” James Q. Wilson


“Fear is essential to survival. It triggers the flight part of the fight-or-flight defense system. . . . On the other hand, fear can be so intense, persistent, and inappropriate that it is pathological.” D. Theodore George, M.D.

“No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.” Edmund Burke

“When fear displaces reason, the result is often irrational hatred and division.” Al Gore

“Fear is the parent of cruelty. . . .” Bertrand Russell

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself. . . .” Franklin D. Roosevelt


“Let us not listen to those who think we ought to be angry with our enemies, and who believe this to be great and manly. Nothing is so praiseworthy, nothing so clearly shows a great and noble soul, as clemency and readiness to forgive.” Cicero

“The wise man will not pardon any crime that ought to be punished, but he will accomplish, in a nobler way, all that is sought in pardoning. He will spare some and watch over some, because of their youth, and others on account of their ignorance. His clemency will not fall short of justice, but will fulfill it perfectly.” Seneca

“A more peaceful way to live is to decide consciously which battles are worth fighting and which are better left alone. . . . Is it really important . . . that you confront someone simply because . . . he or she has made a minor mistake? . . . Does a small scratch on your car really warrant a suit in small claims court? . . . These and thousands of other small things are what many people spend their lives fighting about. . . . If you don’t want to ‘sweat the small stuff,’ it’s critical that you choose your battles wisely.” Richard Carlson

“Wink at small faults; remember thou hast great ones.” Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Maxims

“The three most important words in a relationship are not ‘I love you,’ they’re ‘let it go.'” Bill Maher

“Studies show that forgiveness makes you happier and more satisfied with life, significantly reducing stress and negative emotions.” Emma Seppala

“Of all the manifestations of power, restraint impresses men the most.” Thucydides

“The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown.” Shakespeare


“Gossip and slander are not victimless crimes. Words do not just dissipate into midair. . . . Words can injure and damage, maim and destroy – forcefully, painfully, lastingly. . . . Plans have been disrupted, deals have been lost, companies have fallen, because of idle gossip or malicious slander.  Reputations have been sullied, careers have been ruined, lives have been devastated, because of cruel lies or vicious rumors. . . . Your words have such power to do good or evil that they must be chosen carefully, wisely, and well.” Wayne Dosick

“Minding your own business . . . includes [avoiding] eavesdropping, gossiping, talking behind other people’s backs, and analyzing or trying to figure out other people.” Richard Carlson

“Civilization depends on, and civility often requires, the willingness to say, ‘What you are doing is none of my business’ and ‘What I am doing is none of your business.'” George Will

“Great people talk about ideas. Small people talk about others.” Unknown

“If you can’t say something nice, shut up.” Unknown


“There are certain habits that have been shown to be consistent among happy people. Happy people devote time to family and friends. They practice gratitude. They practice optimism. They are physically active. They ‘savor life’s pleasures and try to live in the present moment.'” Adam Sternbergh

“Human felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen, as by little advantages that occur every day.” Benjamin Franklin

“Work and love – these are the basics. Without them there is neurosis.” Theodor Reik

“When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.” Abraham Lincoln

“Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.” Joseph Addison

“All I have to say is, Love one another – that is the height of all philosophy. It is beyond all religions. It is the secret of joy – the fountain of Perpetual Youth – the only rainbow on life’s dark cloud.” Robert Ingersoll

“The art of life is to know how to enjoy a little and to endure much.” William Hazlitt


“I will follow my logic, no matter where it goes, after it has consulted with my heart. If you ever come to a conclusion without calling the heart in, you will come to a bad conclusion.” Robert Ingersoll

“We should have a bond of sympathy for all sentient beings, knowing that only the depraved and base take pleasure in the sight of blood and suffering.” Seneca

“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” Martin Luther King Jr.


“To the wise man, to the wise nation, the mistakes of the past are the torches of the present.” Robert Ingersoll

“History by apprising them [the people] of the past will enable them to judge of the future. . . . It will qualify them as judges of the actions and designs of men: it will enable them to know ambition under every disguise it may assume; and knowing it, to defeat its views.” Thomas Jefferson

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana

“The past is to be neither forgotten nor dwelled upon, but learned from in the interests of better living in the present and future.” Fred Edwords


“It is a great injustice to persecute homosexuality as a crime, and cruelty too.” Sigmund Freud

“The most recent studies . . . both behavioral and biological, indicate one’s sexual orientation is genetic, something one is born with.” Peter McWilliams

“All mainstream medical, psychological, educational, sociological and legal organizations support the position that homophobia is the problem, not homosexuality.” Chuck Rhoades


“Honesty is the mother of confidence; it unites, combines and solidifies society. Dishonesty is disintegration; it destroys confidence; it brings social chaos. . . .” Robert Ingersoll

“If you cheat, if your weights and measures are inaccurate, if your financial dealings are shoddy, if you take things that do not belong to you, you won’t be able to hide it forever. People will find out. Then your reputation and your business will suffer, because people don’t want to deal with someone who can’t be trusted.” Wayne Dosick

“Honesty . . . is the foundation upon which relationships and many societies are built. Without it . . . there can be no trust. Widespread lying destroys the fabric of democratic societies, in which the necessary assumption is that people mostly tell the truth.” Janny Scott

“Truth is not only violated by falsehood; it may be equally outraged by silence.” Henri Frederic Amiel

“Half the truth is often a great lie.” Benjamin Franklin

“The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest.” Thomas Jefferson

“Even in the business of corporations honesty is the best policy, and the companies that have acted in accordance with the highest standard, other things being equal, have reaped the richest harvest.” Robert Ingersoll

“Throughout history humanity has found that both truth and ethics are essential in the secular realm. When truth and honesty did not prevail in family relations, in commerce, or in covenants or treaties between tribes and nations, trouble resulted.” Howard Teeple

[On the other hand:] “Trying to be totally honest all the time was not really a good thing and probably not even possible. . . . A lot of . . . lying is . . . because we don’t want to hurt other people. . . . It’s not that we don’t value honesty, it’s that we value something else more.” Bella DePaulo, psychologist

[Likewise:] “Sometimes we have to lie in order to be kind,” “There are circumstances where we must temper our desire to tell the truth with the imperative to protect and comfort,” and “Our problem isn’t really with deceit – just with who is doing it, why they are doing it, and when.” Shankar Vedantam and Bill Mesler


“Hope is the consolation of the world.” Robert Ingersoll

“If fortune torments me, hope contents me.” Shakespeare

“I think Samuel Johnson had it right when he observed that hope is itself a species of happiness. So if we want to be happy it only makes sense to discipline ourselves to choose our attitudes, to think positively and to be hopeful.” Michael Josephson

“To most of us the future seems unsure. But then it always has been; and we who have seen great changes must have great hopes.” John Masefield

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast. . . .” Alexander Pope

Human Evil

“The chief source of man’s inhumanity to man seems to be the tribal limits of his sense of obligation to other men.” Reinhold Niebuhr

“Once we see another group of people as ‘the other’ and subhuman, not at all like ourselves, we reactivate humankind’s long history of tribal, state, and religious war. . . . Those who die in any holocaust die because of an idea: the belief that certain people are different and not fully human and therefore it is all right to kill them.” Michael Werner

“Evolutionary psychology tells us that we have instinctual prejudices against people different from us. One of the tasks of a civilizing culture, then, is to educate and work against this inherent tribalism – to look beyond the differences in order to identify the similarities; to recognize, share, and rejoice in those things that unite us rather than divide us.” Michael Werner

“The human psyche has two great sicknesses: the urge to carry vendetta across generations, and the tendency to fasten group labels on people rather than see them as individuals.” Richard Dawkins

“Civilization itself . . . can easily be swept aside when mob passions are aroused.” Steve Allen

“Rage and frenzy will pull down more in half an hour than prudence, deliberation, and foresight can build up in a hundred years.” Edmund Burke

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Lord Acton

“The majority of human conflict comes from people just feeling disrespected.” Paul K. Chappell

“The pressure to conform to an authority figure or peer group can cause people to behave in shocking ways.” Mike Lofgren

“The belief that there is only one truth and that oneself is in possession of it seems to me the deepest root of all evil that is in the world.” Max Born

“Children will, in my dream, be taught that laziness and narcissism are at the very root of human evil, and why this is so. . . . They will come to know that the natural tendency of the individual in a group is to forfeit his or her ethical judgment to the leader, and that this tendency should be resisted. And they will finally see it as each individual’s responsibility to continually examine himself or herself for laziness and narcissism and then to purify themselves accordingly.” M. Scott Peck, M.D.

“The major threats to our survival no longer stem from nature without but from our own human nature within. It is our carelessness, our hostilities, our selfishness and pride and willful ignorance that endanger the world.” M. Scott Peck

“I have learned nothing in twenty years that would suggest that evil people can be rapidly influenced by any means other than raw power. They do not respond, at least in the short run, to either gentle kindness or any form of spiritual persuasion with which I am familiar.” M. Scott Peck

“Weakness invites aggression.” Benjamin B. Wolman

“One may smile, and smile, and be a villain.” Shakespeare

Human Nature

“One of the great aims of Humanism is the transformation and socialization of human motives. This is a sector where human nature can be drastically reconditioned and reshaped. What the scientific study of human motives shows is that human nature is neither essentially bad nor essentially good. . . . But human nature is essentially flexible and educable. And the molding or remolding of human motives is something that takes place not only in childhood and youth, but also throughout adult life and under the impact of fundamental economic institutions and cultural media that weightily influence mind and character.” Corliss Lamont

“More and more research is suggesting that, far from being simply encoded in the genes, much of personality is a flexible and dynamic thing that changes over the life span and is shaped by experience.” Carol Dweck

“Sometime, it will be found that people can be changed only by changing their surroundings. It is alleged that, at least ninety-five percent of the criminals transported from England to Australia and other penal colonies, became good and useful citizens in a new world.” Robert Ingersoll

“Scientists now recognize that it is primarily the culture we have developed rather than inborn aggressive instincts that determines whether we help, ignore, or harm each other.” Allan Luks

“How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.” Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments

“Self-interest, to be sure, is one of the most important, but we have many other motives – honesty, self-respect, altruism, love, sympathy, faith, sense of duty, solidarity, loyalty, public-spiritedness, patriotism, and so on – that are sometimes even more important than self-seeking as the driver of our behaviors.” Ha-Joon Chang

“The theory that everyone acts from self-interest, direct or indirect, is psychologically unsound. . . . Throughout history . . . there have been millions of men and women with some sort of Humanist philosophy who have consciously given up their lives for a social ideal.” Corliss Lamont


“Every man I meet is my superior in some way. In that, I learn of him.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” Bill Nye

“The person who is truly effective has the humility and reverence to recognize his own perceptual limitations and to appreciate the rich resources available through interaction with the hearts and minds of other human beings. . . . When we’re left to our own experiences, we constantly suffer from a shortage of data.” Stephen R. Covey

“Suppose you had inherited the same body and temperament and mind that Al Capone had. Suppose you had had his environment and experiences. You would then be precisely what he was. . . . For it is those things – and only those things – that made him what he was. . . . You deserve very little credit for being what you are – and remember, the people who come to you irritated, bigoted, unreasoning, deserve very little discredit for being what they are.” Dale Carnegie

“When choosing a leader, we always kept in mind that humility provides clarity where arrogance makes a cloud. The last thing we wanted was to be led by someone whose judgment and actions were clouded by arrogance.” The Lakota Way

“Any real accomplishment in the world reflects the efforts of a lot of people. . . . For an individual to claim personal responsibility was the height of arrogance.” John J. Gilligan

“Humility and inner peace go hand in hand. The less compelled you are to try to prove yourself to others, the easier it is to feel peaceful inside.” Richard Carlson

“I do think it imperative that you recover from fear of rejection. Forgive me, but that is the sin of pride, and you must avoid that particular manifestation of the sin if you are to reach the goal . . . you hope for.” John Farrar

“Flattery is OK, if you don’t inhale.” Congressman Mo Udall

“Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.” Thomas Merton

“If history teaches anything, it teaches humility.” Gordon Wood

“Life is a long lesson in humility.” James M. Barrie


“Nothing happens unless first a dream.” Carl Sandburg

“Idealists are people who believe in the potential of human nature for transformation. . . . The most essential attribute of human nature is its mutability and freedom from instinct . . . it is always within our power to change our nature. So it is actually the idealists who are on the mark and the realists who are off base.” M. Scott Peck

“One is apt to think of moral failure as due to weakness of character: more often it is due to an inadequate ideal.” Richard Livingstone

“I’m quite amused by the attempt to excuse not trying harder, by claiming that perfect is not possible; it may not be, but striving toward it as an ideal is! It is in the act of ‘striving’ that we demonstrate character, courage, and conscience.” Laura Schlessinger

“Though I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was by the endeavor made a better and a happier man than I otherwise should have been if I had not attempted it. . . .” Benjamin Franklin

“Visualizing how you want to be is [an] effective way to move toward your goal.” Ellen Bass and Laura Davis

“My belief is that no human being or society composed of human beings ever did or ever will come to much unless their conduct was governed and guided by the love of some ethical ideal.” Thomas H. Huxley

“Never idealize others. They will never live up to your expectations.” Leo Buscaglia


“Nothing puts a greater obstacle in the way of the progress of knowledge than thinking that one knows what one does not yet know.” Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

“Good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence, if they lack understanding.” Albert Camus

“The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.” Justice Louis Brandeis

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” Martin Luther King Jr.

“Ignorance allied with power is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.” James Baldwin

“The trouble with people is not that they don’t know, but that they know so much that ain’t so.” Josh Billings


“Civility is a work of the imagination, for it is through the imagination that we render others sufficiently like ourselves for them to become subjects of tolerance and respect, if not always affection.” Benjamin Barber

“And what is the great thing that the stage does? It cultivates the imagination. And . . . the imagination constitutes the great difference between human beings. . . . The imagination is the mother of pity, the mother of generosity, the mother of every possible virtue. It is by the imagination that you are enabled to put yourself in the place of another.” Robert Ingersoll

“I had a vivid imagination. Not only could I put myself in the other person’s place, but I could not avoid doing so. My sympathies always went out to the weak, the suffering, and the poor. Realizing their sorrows I tried to relieve them in order that I myself might be relieved.” Clarence Darrow

“My best way of making someone admit to something’s wrongness is to have them imagine that thing done to them. Suddenly then it all becomes clear.” Laura Schlessinger


“Know thyself.” Socrates

“When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.” Ralph Ellison

“Follow your bliss.” Joseph Campbell

“To give up your individuality is to annihilate yourself.” Robert Ingersoll

“There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better for worse as his portion. . . .” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Nothing is so tiresome to one’s self, as well as so odious to others, as disguise and affectation.” Benjamin Franklin

“In proportion to the development of his individuality, each person becomes more valuable to himself, and is therefore capable of being more valuable to others. . . .” John Stuart Mill

“Why should we be in such a desperate haste to succeed and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.” Henry David Thoreau

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.” Robert Frost

“This above all, to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.” Shakespeare


“There is, so far as I know, no way of dealing with envy except to make the lives of the envious happier and fuller, and to encourage in youth the idea of collective enterprises rather than competition. . . . Still, it must be admitted that a residuum of envy is likely to remain. There are many instances in history of generals so jealous of each other that they preferred defeat to enhancement of the other’s reputation. Two politicians of the same party, or two artists of the same school, are almost sure to be jealous of each other. In such cases, there seems nothing to be done except to arrange, so far as possible, that each competitor shall be unable to injure the other and shall only be able to win by superior merit. . . . Where envy is unavoidable it must be used as a stimulus to one’s own efforts, not to the thwarting of the efforts of rivals.” Bertrand Russell

“Some people are more prone to jealousy and some less, but we all have it at some point in our lives.” Janet Hardy

“Jealousy isn’t going to kill you. It can be . . . a great sign of something that needs to grow or evolve within you.” Sumati Sparks

“There is no limit to what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit.” John Wooden


“Justice will not come . . . until those who are not injured are as indignant as those who are.” Thucydides

“Pardoning the Bad, is injuring the Good.” Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Maxims

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Martin Luther King Jr.

“You can also commit injustice by doing nothing.” Marcus Aurelius

“Equal justice under law is not just a caption on the facade of the Supreme Court building. . . . It is fundamental that justice should be the same, in substance and availability, without regard to economic status.” Justice Lewis Powell Jr.

“The common sense of mankind demands that law shall not stop with the punishment of petty crimes by little people. It must also reach men who possess themselves of great power.” Justice Robert Jackson

“A society that has more justice is a society that needs less charity.” Ralph Nader

“It is not by great acts but by small failures that freedom dies. . . . Justice and liberty die quietly, because men first learn to ignore injustice and then no longer recognize it.” Charles Morgan


“Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it is the only means.” Albert Einstein

“Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be.” Johann Goethe

“I decide on the basis of conscience. A genuine leader doesn’t reflect consensus, he molds consensus.” Martin Luther King Jr.

“A politician thinks of the next election and a statesman thinks of the next generation.” James Freeman Clarke

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” Gen. George Patton

“Those renowned generals [Alexander and Caesar] received more faithful service, and performed greater actions by means of the love their soldiers bore them, than they could possibly have done, if instead of being beloved and respected they had been hated and feared by those they commanded.” Benjamin Franklin

“A Lincolnesque leader is confident enough to be humble – to not feel the need to bluster or dominate, but to be sufficiently sure of one’s own judgment and self-worth to really listen and not be threatened by contrary advice.” Evan Thomas and Richard Wolffe

“Ancient wisdom offers . . . a simple yet profound formula to guide everyone who leads, anyone who aspires to leadership: ‘Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.'” Wayne Dosick

“As we become civilized we are governed less by persons and more by principles. . . . The best of all leaders is the man who teaches people to lead themselves.” Robert Ingersoll

“A leader is best
When people barely know he exists.
Not so good when people obey and acclaim him.
Worse when they despise him. . . .
But of a good leader, who talks little,
When his work is done, his aim fulfilled,
They will say, ‘We did this ourselves.'” Lao-Tse


“A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement.” Thomas Jefferson

“I am for . . . each individual doing just as he chooses in all matters which concern nobody else.” Abraham Lincoln

“So long as we do not harm others we should be free to think, speak, act, and live as we see fit, without molestation from individuals, law, or government. . . .” John Stuart Mill

“Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign. . . . The only purpose for which government may rightfully exercise power . . . over anyone is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.” John Stuart Mill

“I love liberty. . . . By physical liberty I mean the right to do anything which does not interfere with the happiness of another. By intellectual liberty I mean the right to think right and the right to think wrong.” Robert Ingersoll

“By a free country, I mean a country where people are allowed, so long as they do not hurt their neighbors, to do as they like. I do not mean a country where six men may make five men do exactly as they like.” Robert Cecil

“Despotism has so often been established in the name of liberty that experience should warn us to judge parties by their practices rather than their preachings.” Raymond Aron

“We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.” Franklin Roosevelt

“Those who won our independence . . . valued liberty both as an end and as a means. They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty.” Justice Louis Brandeis

“The makers of our Constitution . . . conferred, as against the government, the right to be let alone – the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men.” Justice Louis Brandeis

“I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. These are false hopes. . . . Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it.” Judge Learned Hand

“Live and let live, be and let be,
Hear and let hear, see and let see. . . .
Live and let live and remember this line:
‘Your bus’ness is your bus’ness and my bus’ness is mine.'” Cole Porter


“Loneliness is more fatal than a poor diet or lack of exercise, as corrosive as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Friendship literally saves our lives.” Marisa G. Franco, psychologist


“I believe that there is something far nobler than loyalty to any particular man. Loyalty to the truth as we perceive it – loyalty to our duty as we know it – loyalty to the ideals of our brain and heart – is, to my mind, far greater and far nobler than loyalty to the life of any particular man or God. . . .” Robert Ingersoll

“Sometimes party loyalty asks too much.” John F. Kennedy

Luck and Preparation

“Not a man alive has so much luck that he can play with it.” William Butler Yeats

“A man would be a fool to take his luck for granted.” Gary Hart

“Circumspection and caution are part of wisdom.” Edmund Burke

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Benjamin Franklin

“Luck does indeed favor the well prepared.” James Alan Fox and Jack Levin

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Seneca

“I will study and prepare and perhaps my chance will come.” Abraham Lincoln

“The readiness is all.” Shakespeare

Continue to More Life Quotes >