Quotations by Harris, Sydney J.


Agnosticism is a perfectly respectable and tenable philosophical position; it is not dogmatic and makes no pronouncements about the ultimate truths of the universe. It remains open to evidence and persuasion; lacking faith, it nevertheless does not deride faith. Atheism, on the other hand, is as unyielding and dogmatic about religious belief as true believers are about heathens. It tries to use reason to demolish a structure that is not built upon reason.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
“Atheists, Like Fundamentalists, are Dogmatic,” >Pieces of Eight (1982)
Added on 16-Feb-09 | Last updated 16-Feb-09
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As we grow older, we should learn that these are two quite different things. Character is something you forge for yourself; temperament is something you are born with and can only slightly modify. Some people have easy temperaments and weak characters; others have difficult temperaments and strong characters. We are all prone to confuse the two in assessing people we associate with. Those with easy temperaments and weak characters are more likable than admirable; those with difficult temperaments and strong characters are more admirable than likable.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
“Confusing ‘Character’ with ‘Temperament’,” Clearing the Ground (1986)
Added on 9-Mar-09 | Last updated 9-Mar-09
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“Terrorism” is what we call the violence of the weak, and we condemn it; “war” is what we call the violence of the strong, and we glorify it.

harris-violence-of-the-weak-strong-wist_info-quote

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
“Nations Should Submit to the Rule of Law,” Clearing the Ground (1986)
Added on 19-Dec-16 | Last updated 19-Dec-16
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The difference between patriotism and nationalism is that the patriot is proud of his country for what it does, and the nationalist is proud of his country no matter what it does; the first attitude creates a feeling of responsibility, but the second a feeling of blind arrogance that leads to war.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
“Purely Personal Prejudices,” Strictly Personal (1953)
Added on 23-Feb-09 | Last updated 23-Feb-09
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An idealist believes the short run doesn’t count. A cynic believes the long run doesn’t matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short run determines the long run.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
“Thoughts at Large,” column, Chicago Sun-Times

Earliest reference in Readers Digest (May 1979)
Added on 27-Nov-07 | Last updated 27-Nov-07
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The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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Nobody can be so amusingly arrogant as a young man who has just discovered an old idea and thinks it is his own.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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The most important thing in an argument, next to being right, is to leave an escape-hatch for your opponent, so that he can gracefully swing over to your side without too much apparent loss of face.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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If you want to know what a man’s character is really like, don’t ask him to tell you his creed or his code (for everyone has a prettified public version of these), but ask him to tell you the living person he most admires – for hero worship is the truest index of a man’s private nature.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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The surest indication of a mediocre mind is its belief that everything can be explained.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
(Attributed)
Added on 10-Jul-09 | Last updated 10-Jul-09
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Enemies, as well as lovers, come to resemble each other over a period of time.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
(Attributed)
Added on 17-Jul-09 | Last updated 17-Jul-09
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We can often endure an extra pound of pain far more easily than we can suffer the withdrawal of an ounce of accustomed pleasure.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
(Attributed)
Added on 24-Jul-09 | Last updated 24-Jul-09
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Almost no one is foolish enough to imagine that he automatically deserves great success in any field of activity yet almost everyone believes that he automatically deserves success in marriage.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
(Attributed)
Added on 31-Jul-09 | Last updated 31-Jul-09
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It’s surprising how many persons go through life without ever recognizing that their feelings toward other people are largely determined by their feelings toward themselves, and if you’re not comfortable within yourself, you can’t be comfortable with others.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
(Attributed)
Added on 7-Aug-09 | Last updated 7-Aug-09
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The reason that truth is stranger than fiction is that fiction has to have a rational thread running through it in order to be believable, whereas reality may be totally irrational.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
(Attributed)

See Twain.
Added on 14-Aug-09 | Last updated 20-Jan-19
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The three hardest tasks in the world are neither physical feats nor intellectual achievements, but moral acts: to return love for hate, to include the excluded, and to say, “I was wrong.”

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
(Attributed)
Added on 28-Aug-09 | Last updated 28-Aug-09
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When I hear somebody sigh that “Life is hard,” I am always tempted to ask, “Compared to what?”

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
(Attributed)
Added on 4-Sep-09 | Last updated 4-Sep-09
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There’s no point in burying the hatchet if you’re going to put up a marker on the site.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
(Attributed)
Added on 11-Sep-09 | Last updated 11-Sep-09
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Democracy is the only system that persists in asking the powers that be whether they are the powers that ought to be.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
(Attributed)
Added on 14-Oct-09 | Last updated 14-Oct-09
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If you are honest because you think that is the best policy, your honesty has already been corrupted.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
(Attributed)
Added on 6-Dec-10 | Last updated 6-Dec-10
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If a small thing has the power to make you angry, does that not indicate something about your size?

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
(Attributed)
Added on 13-Sep-13 | Last updated 3-May-19
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We believe what we want to believe, what we like to believe, what suits our prejudices and fuels our passions.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
Clearing the Ground, “Lies Are Not Easily Put to Rest” (1986)
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We have not passed that subtle line between childhood and adulthood until we move from the passive voice to the active voice — that is, until we have stopped saying, “It got lost,” and say, “I lost it.”

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
On the Contrary, ch. 7 (1962)
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A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past, he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
On the Contrary, ch. 7 (1962)
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A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past, he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
On the Contrary, ch. 7 (1962)
Added on 1-Sep-09 | Last updated 1-Sep-09
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People who think they’re generous to a fault usually think that’s their only fault.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
On the Contrary, ch. 7 (1962)
Added on 7-Sep-10 | Last updated 7-Sep-10
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To execute a murderer is simply to adopt his point of view.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
Pieces of Eight (1982)
Added on 7-Apr-16 | Last updated 7-Apr-16
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Youth finds no value in the views it disagrees with, but maturity includes discovering that even an opinion contrary to ours may contain a vein of truth we could profitably assimilate to our own views.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
Pieces of Eight (1982)
    (Source)
Added on 27-May-19 | Last updated 27-May-19
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Patriotism is proud of a country’s virtues and eager to correct its deficiencies; it also acknowledges the legitimate patriotism of other countries, with their own specific virtues. The pride of nationalism, however, trumpets its country’s virtues and denies its deficiencies, while it is contemptuous toward the virtues of other countries. It wants to be, and proclaims itself to be, “the greatest,” but greatness is not required of a country; only goodness is.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
Pieces of Eight, “What’s Wrong with Being Proud?” (1982)
Added on 9-Feb-09 | Last updated 9-Feb-09
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The idea of growth for its own sake is precisely the philosophy of the cancer cell.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
Pieces of Eight, ch. 2 (1982)
Added on 12-Dec-12 | Last updated 12-Dec-12
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Most revolutionaries soon become either corrupt or repressive because the qualities that make men successful revolutionaries drive them to other excesses after they have achieved power.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
Pieces of Eight, ch. 3 (1982)
Added on 21-Jan-14 | Last updated 21-Jan-14
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It is only a sentimental half-truth that the best things in life are free; while they may be, it is equally true that we need the money to buy the time to enjoy them.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
Pieces of Eight, ch. 4 (1982)
Added on 1-Jun-12 | Last updated 1-Jun-12
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The good person loves people and uses things, while the bad person loves things and uses people.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
Pieces of Eight, ch. 4 (1982)
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Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; It is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
Strictly Personal (1953)
Added on 22-Jun-15 | Last updated 18-May-16
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A great many people feel “guilty” about things they shouldn’t feel guilty about, in order to shut out feelings of guilt about the things they should feel guilty about.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
Column, Chicago Daily News (1971)
Added on 7-Dec-15 | Last updated 7-Dec-15
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Nothing is as easy to make as a promise this winter to do something next summer; this is how commencement speakers are caught.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
Column, Chicago Daily News (20 Feb 1958)
Added on 19-Jan-09 | Last updated 19-Jan-09
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Many married couples separate because they quarrel incessantly; but just as many separate because they were never honest enough or courageous enough to quarrel when they should have.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
Syndicated column, Chicago Daily News (1965)
Added on 15-Oct-09 | Last updated 15-Oct-09
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One of the oldest Russian proverbs remains as inexorably true in modern America: “No one is hanged who has money in his pocket.” Or, one might say, capital punishment is only for those without capital.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
Syndicated column, Chicago Daily News (Apr 1971)
Added on 31-Mar-15 | Last updated 31-Mar-15
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