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Being good is better far than seeming so.

[Refert sis bonus, an velis videri.]

Marcus Valerius Martial
Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 8, epigram 38, l. 7 (8.38.7) [tr. Francis & Tatum (1924), ep. 415]

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

'Tis better bee, than seeme, good.
[16th C Manuscript]

'Tis not the same,
To covet and to merit a good name.
[tr. Hay (1755)]

Bounteous to be, or seem; the distance wide!
[tr. Elphinston (1782); Book 2, ep. 111]

It makes a difference whether a man is, or only wishes to seem, good.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

It matters much whether thou'rt truly good, or would'st appear so.
[comp. Harbottle (1916)]

Wide is the difference 'twixt goodness and pretence.
[tr. Ker (1919)]

... the great gulf ’twixt goodness and pretence.
[tr. Pott & Wright (1921)]

There is a difference between goodness and pretence.
[tr. Shackleton Bailey (1993)]

Added on 8-Sep-23 | Last updated 8-Sep-23
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Count heads. That is what matters in all things. When you must, follow the common taste, and make your way toward eminence. The wise should adapt themselves to the present, even when the past seems more attractive, both in the clothes of the soul and of the body. This rule for living holds for everything but goodness, for one must always practice virtue.

[El gusto de las cabeças haze voto en cada orden de cosas. Ésse se ha de seguir por entonces, y adelantar a eminencia. Acomódese el cuerdo a lo presente, aunque le parezca mejor lo pasado, así en los arreos del alma como del cuerpo. Sólo en la bondad no vale esta regla de vivir, que siempre se ha de practicar la virtud.]

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], § 120 (1647) [tr. Maurer (1992)]

(Source (Spanish)). Alternate translations:

Let a prudent man accommodate himself to the present, whether as to body, or mind, though the past may even seem better unto him. In manners onely that rule is not to be observed, seeing vertue is at all times to be practised.
[Flesher ed. (1685)]

In everything the taste of the many carries the votes; for the time being one must follow it in the hope of leading it to higher things. In the adornment of the body as of the mind adapt yourself to the present, even though the past appear better. But this rule does not apply to kindness, for goodness is for all time.
[tr. Jacobs (1892)]

The choice of the many carries the vote in every field. For the time being, therefore, it must be bowed to, in order to bring it to higher level: the man of wisdom accommodates himself to the present, even though the past seems better, alike in the dress of his spirit, as in the dress of his body. Only in the matter of being decent does this rule of life not apply, for virtue should be practiced eternally.
[tr. Fischer (1937)]

Added on 11-Feb-22 | Last updated 21-Aug-23
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All other knowledge is hurtful to him who has not the science of goodness.

[Toute autre science, est dommageable à celuy qui n’a la science de la bonté.]

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
Essays, Book 1, ch. 24 “Of Pedantry” (1580) [tr. Cotton (1686), rev Hazlitt (1877)]

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

  • "Each other science is prejudciall unto him that hath not the science of goodnesse." [tr. Florio (1603)]
  • "All other knowledge is detrimental to him who has not the science of becoming a good man." [tr. Friswell (1868)]
  • "All other learning is hurtful to him who has not the knowledge of honesty and goodness." [tr. Rector (1899)]
Added on 15-Sep-21 | Last updated 15-Sep-21
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Goodness is about what you do. Not who you pray to.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Snuff (2011)
Added on 13-Apr-21 | Last updated 19-Apr-21
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Truth and goodness are the same for all people. But pleasure varies from one to another.

Ἀνθρώποις πᾶσι τωὐτὸν ἀγαθὸν καὶ ἀληθές· ἡδὺ δὲ ἄλλωι ἄλλο.

Democritus (c. 460 BC - c. 370 BC) Greek philosopher
Frag. 69 (Diels) [tr. @sententiq (2018), fr. 68]

Diels citation "69. (6 N.) DEMOKRATES. 34.". Freeman notes this as one of the Gnômae, from a collection called "Maxims of Democratês," but because Stobaeus quotes many of these as "Maxims of Democritus," they are generally attributed to the latter. Alternate translations:
  • "For all men, good and true are the same; but pleasant differs for different men." [tr. Freeman (1948)]
  • "The same thing is good and true for all men. But what is pleasant differs from one to another." [Warren (2008)]
  • "Goodness and truth are the same for all men: but pleasure differs from man to man." [Source]
Added on 16-Mar-21 | Last updated 11-May-21
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The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1926-2004) Swiss-American psychiatrist, author
Death: The Final Stage of Growth (1975)
Added on 14-Oct-20 | Last updated 14-Oct-20
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No man or woman of the humblest sort can really be strong, gentle, pure, and good, without the world being the better for it, without somebody being helped and comforted by the very existence of that goodness.

Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) American clergyman, hymnist
Sermons, Vol. 1
Added on 2-Nov-16 | Last updated 2-Nov-16
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He’s a good person, you know. In spite of many things, including his own opinion, he’s a good person. Maybe a bit conceited, overbearing, and arrogant, but then, people without a trace of these diseases aren’t usually worth one’s time.

Steven Brust (b. 1955) American writer, systems programmer
Orca [Kiera] (1996)
Added on 1-Jul-16 | Last updated 1-Jul-16
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By doing good we become good.

Rousseau - doing good - wist_info quote

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) French philosopher and writer
Emile, ch. 4 (1762) [tr. Foxley (1911)]
Added on 19-Jan-16 | Last updated 19-Jan-16
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FIRST GOD: Show interest in her goodness — for no one can be good for long if goodness is not in demand.

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) German poet, playwright, director, dramaturgist
The Good Person of Szechwan [Der gute Mensch von Sezuan], Scene 1a (1941) [tr. Bentley (1947)]
Added on 14-Jan-16 | Last updated 26-Mar-21
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It must be a good thing to be good or ivrybody wudden’t be pretendin’ he was.

[It must be a good thing to be good, or everybody wouldn’t be pretending he was.]

Dunne - pretending to be good - wist_info

Finley Peter Dunne (1867-1936) American humorist and journalist
Observations by Mr. Dooley, “Hypocrisy” (1902)
Added on 27-Oct-15 | Last updated 27-Oct-15
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Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.

Marcus Aurelius (AD 121-180) Roman emperor (161-180), Stoic philosopher
Meditations, Book 10, #16 [tr. Staniforth (1964)]
Added on 3-Apr-15 | Last updated 1-Mar-16
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That observation which is called knowledge of the world will be found much more frequently to make men cunning than good.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The Rambler, #4 (31 Mar 1750)
Added on 30-Aug-13 | Last updated 25-Jun-22
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Your goodness must have some edge to it, — else it is none.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Self-Reliance,” Essays: First Series (1841)
Added on 28-Aug-07 | Last updated 27-Mar-23
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It may well be that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition is not the glaring noisiness of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people. It may be that our generation will have repent not only for the diabolical actions and vitriolic words of the children of darkness, but also for the crippling fears and tragic apathy of the children of light.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, social activist, preacher
“The Christian Way of Life in Human Relations,” speech, General Assembly fo the National Council of Churches, St Louis (4 Dec 1957)

Often paraphrased: "We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people." See also here.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 18-Jan-21
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Happiness is not the end of life, character is.

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) American clergyman and orator
Life Thoughts: Gathered from the Extemporaneous Discourses of Henry Ward Beecher (1858)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 23-Aug-16
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