Quotations about   integrity

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The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office. If a man’s associates find him guilty of phoniness, if they find that he lacks forthright integrity, he will fail. His teachings and actions must square with each other. The first great need, therefore, is integrity and high purpose.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
(Attributed)
Added on 24-Mar-19 | Last updated 24-Mar-19
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One must be fond of people and trust them if one is not to make a mess of life, and it is therefore essential that they should not let one down. They often do. The moral of which is that I must, myself, be as reliable as possible, and this I try to be. But reliability is not a matter of contract — that is the main difference between the world of personal relationships and the world of business relationships. It is a matter for the heart, which signs no documents. In other words, reliability is impossible unless there is a natural warmth. Most men possess this warmth, though they often have bad luck and get chilled. Most of them, even when they are politicians, want to keep faith. And one can, at all events, show one’s own little light here, one’s own poor little trembling flame, with the knowledge that it is not the only light that is shining in the darkness, and not the only one which the darkness does not comprehend.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) English novelist, essayist, critic, librettist [Edward Morgan Forster]
“What I Believe,” The Nation (16 Jul 1938)
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Added on 14-Nov-18 | Last updated 14-Nov-18
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Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.

John Wooden (1910-2010) American basketball player and coach
They Call Me Coach, ch. 9, epigram (1972)
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Added on 31-Jul-18 | Last updated 31-Jul-18
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The amount of temptation required differentiates the honest from the dishonest.

Paul Eldridge (1888-1982) American educator, novelist, poet
Maxims for a Modern Man, #1095 (1965)
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The fortitude which has encountered no dangers, that prudence which has surmounted no difficulties, that integrity which has been attacked by no temptations, can at best be considered but as gold not yet brought to the test, of which therefore the true value cannot be assigned.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The Rambler #150 (24 Aug 1751)
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Talking much about oneself can also be a means to conceal oneself.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) German philosopher and poet
Beyond Good and Evil, 169 (1886) [tr. Kaufmann (1966)]
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Sin is a queer thing. It isn’t the breaking of divine commandments. It is the breaking of one’s own integrity.

lawrence-sin-is-a-queer-thing-wist_info-quote

David Herbert "D. H." Lawrence (1885-1930) English novelist
Studies in Classic American Literature, ch. 8 (1923)
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God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose. Take which you please — you can never have both.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Intellect,” Essays: First Series (1841)
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The only guide to a man is his conscience, the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and the sincerity of his actions. It is very imprudent to walk through life without this shield, because we are so often mocked by the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations; but with this shield, however the fates may play, we march always in the ranks of honour.

Winston Churchill (1874-1965) British statesman and author
Eulogy for Neville Chamberlain (1940)

In The Second World War, Vol. 2: Their Finest Hour (1949)
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He who is mistaken in an action which he sincerely believes to be right may be an enemy, but retains our esteem.

Jules Verne (1828-1905) French novelist, poet, playwright
The Mysterious Island (1874)
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There are few mortals so insensible that their affections cannot be gained by mildness; their confidence by sincerity; their hatred by scorn or neglect.

Johann Georg Zimmermann (1728-1795) Swiss philosophical writer, naturalist, physician
Aphorisms and Reflections on Men, Morals and Things (1800)
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The best foreign policy is to live our daily lives in honesty, decency, and integrity; at home, making our own land a more fitting habitation for free men; and abroad, joining with those of like mind and heart, to make of the world a place where all men can dwell in peace.

Eisenhower - honesty decency integrity - wist_info quote

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
Inaugural Gabriel Silver lecture, Columbia University (23 Mar 1950)

Eisenhower was President of Columbia University at the time. The quote was widely used in an "I Believe" advertisement for Eisenhower during the 1956 election.

(Sources 1 and 2)
Added on 21-Jun-16 | Last updated 21-Jun-16
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All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
A Little Book in C Major (1916)
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He who is mistaken in an action which he sincerely believes to be right may be an enemy, but retains our esteem.

[Celui qui se trompe dans une intention qu’il croit bonne, on peut le combattre, on ne cesse pas de l’estimer.]

Jules Verne (1828-1905) French novelist, poet, playwright
The Mysterious Island, Part 3, ch. 16 (1874)
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There is but one way I know of conversing safely with all men; that is, not by concealing what we say or do, but by saying or doing nothing that deserves to be concealed.

Pope - deserves to be concealed - wist_info quote

Alexander Pope (1688-1744) English poet
Letter to H. Cromwell (28 Oct 1710)
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Wherever the truth is injured, defend it.

Emerson - truth is injured - wist_info quote

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1834)
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If I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul.

Asimov - foul foul foul - wist_info quote

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
I, Asimov: A Memoir (1994)
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Do what you think is right and to hell with your popularity.

Brian Mulroney (b. 1939) Canadian politician, Prime Minister (1984-93)
Remark to US President Bill Clinton (2 Jun 1993)
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Quoted by Mulroney in a press conference.
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Because, therefore, we are defending a way of life, we must be respectful of that way of life as we proceed to the solution of our problem. We must not violate its principles and its precepts, and we must not destroy from within what we are trying to defend from without.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
Speech, NATO Council (26 Nov 1951)
Added on 29-Mar-16 | Last updated 29-Mar-16
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To think all you say, is but candor;
To say all you think, would be slander.

William Allingham (1824–1889) Irish poet, diarist
Blackberries Picked Off Many Bushes (1884)
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Say nothing good of yourself, you will be distrusted; say nothing bad of yourself, you will be taken at your word.

Joseph Roux (1834-1886) French Catholic priest
Meditations of a Parish Priest: Thoughts, Part 5 “Joy, Suffering, Fortune,” #22 (1886) [tr. Hapgood]
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Dependability, integrity, the characteristic of never knowingly doing anything wrong, that you would never cheat anyone, that you would give everybody a fair deal. Character is a sort of an all-inclusive thing. If a man has character, everyone has confidence in him. Soldiers must have confidence in their leader.

Omar Bradley (1893-1981) American general
Personal interview with Edgar Puryear (15 Feb 1963)

Quoted in Edgar Puryear, 19 Stars : A Study in Military Character and Leadership (1981).
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It is a great deal better to live a holy life than to talk about it. We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does. Light-houses don’t ring bells and fire cannon to call attention to their shining — they just shine.

Moody - light-houses - wist_info quote

Dwight Lyman "D. L." Moody (1837-1899) American evangelist and publisher
(Attributed)

Sometimes quoted, "they just shine on."
Added on 27-Jan-16 | Last updated 27-Jan-16
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How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.

Marcus Aurelius (121-180) Roman emperor (161-180), Stoic philosopher
Meditations [tr. Staniforth (1964)]
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The true focus of revolutionary change is never merely the oppressive situations that we seek to escape, but that piece of the oppressor which is planted deep within each of us.

Lorde - piece of the oppressor - wist_info quote

Audre Lorde (1934-1992) American writer, feminist, civil rights activist
“Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference,” Copeland Colloquium, Amherst College (Apr 1980)

Reprinted in Sister Outsider (1984)
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There’s a brave fellow! There’s a man of pluck!
A man who’s not afraid to say his say,
Though a whole town’s against him.

Longfellow - brave pluck - wist_info quote

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
John Endicott, Act 2, sc. 2 (1868)
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Never for the sake of peace and quiet deny your convictions.

Dag Hammarskjöld (1905-1961) Swedish diplomat, author, UN Secretary-General (1953-61)
Markings (1963)
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The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Worship,” The Conduct of Life (1860)
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You’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.

Malcolm X - wrong is wrong - wist_info

Malcolm X (1925-1965) American revolutionary, religious leader [b. Malcolm Little]
“Prospects for Freedom in 1965,” speech, New York (7 Jan 1965)
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The greatest height of heroism to which an individual, like a people, can attain is to know how to face ridicule; better still, to know how to make oneself ridiculous and not to shrink from the ridicule.

Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936) Spanish philosopher and writer [Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo]
The Tragic Sense of Life [Del Sentimiento Trágico de la Vida], Conclusion (1913) [tr. Flitch (1921)]
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Hire and promote first on the basis of integrity; second, motivation; third, capacity; fourth, understanding; fifth, knowledge; and last and least, experience. Without integrity, motivation is dangerous; without motivation, capacity is impotent; without capacity, understanding is limited; without understanding, knowledge is meaningless; without knowledge, experience is blind. Experience is easy to provide and quickly put to good use by people with all the other qualities.

Dee W. Hock (b. 1929) American businessman
In M. Mitchell Waldrop, “Dee Hock on Management,” Fast Company (Oct/Nov 1996)
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It’s a good thing when a man is different from your image of him. It shows he isn’t a type. If he were, it would be the end of him as a man. But if you can’t place him in a category, it means that at least a part of him is what a human being ought to be. He has risen above himself, he has a grain of immortality.
Boris Pasternak - grain of immortality - wist_info

Boris Pasternak (1890-1960) Russian poet, novelist, and literary translator
Doctor Zhivago, 9.14 (1957) [tr. Hayward and Harari (1958)]
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Let no one say that he is a follower of Gandhi. It is enough that I should be my own follower. I know what an inadequate follower I am of myself, for I cannot live up to the convictions I stand for. You are no followers, but fellow students, fellow pilgrims, fellow seekers, fellow workers.
Gandhi - followers - wist_info

Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948) Indian philosopher and nationalist [Mahatma Gandhi]
In Harijan (2 Mar 1940)
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When you are offended at any man’s fault, turn to yourself and study your own failings. Then you will forget your anger.

Epictetus (c.55-c.135) Greek (Phrygian) Stoic philosopher
(Attributed)
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It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who, in the midst of the crowd, keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Self-Reliance,” Essays: First Series (1841)
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The political leaders with whom we are familiar generally aspire to be superstars rather than heroes. The distinction is crucial. Superstars strive for approbation; heroes walk alone. Superstars crave consensus; heroes define themselves by the judgment of a future they see it as their task to bring about. Superstars seek success in a technique for eliciting support; heroes pursue success as the outgrowth of their inner values.

Henry Kissinger (b. 1923) German-American diplomat
“With Faint Praise,” New York Times Book Review (16 Jul 1995)
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A single lie destroys a whole reputation for integrity.

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish writer.
The Art of Wordly Wisdom, 181 (1647) [tr Jacobs (1943)]
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One lies more to one’s self than to anyone else.

George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824) English poet
Journal (6 Dec 1813)
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In short, we can judge by nothing but Appearances, and they are very apt to deceive us. Some put on a gay chearful Outside, and appear to the World perfectly at Ease, tho’ even then, some inward Sting, some secret Pain imbitters all their Joys, and makes the Balance even: Others appear continually dejected and full of Sorrow; but even Grief itself is sometimes pleasant, and Tears are not always without their Sweetness: Besides, Some take a Satisfaction in being thought unhappy, (as others take a Pride in being thought humble,) these will paint their Misfortunes to others in the strongest Colours, and leave no Means unus’d to make you think them thoroughly miserable; so great a Pleasure it is to them to be pitied; Others retain the Form and outside Shew of Sorrow, long after the Thing itself, with its Cause, is remov’d from the Mind; it is a Habit they have acquir’d and cannot leave.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
“A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity” (1725)
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It is when the sentimentalist turns preacher of morals that we investigate his character, and are justified in so doing. He may express as many and as delicate shades of feeling as he likes, — for this the sensibility of his organization perfectly fits him, no other person could do it so well, — but the moment he undertakes to establish his feeling as a rule of conduct, we ask at once how far are his own life and deed in accordance with what he preaches? For every man feels instinctively that all the beautiful sentiments in the world weigh less than a single lovely action; and that while tenderness of feeling and susceptibility to generous emotions are accidents of temperament, goodness is an achievement of the will and a quality of the life. Fine words, says our homely old proverb, butter no parsnips; and if the question be how to render those vegetables palatable, an ounce of butter would be worth more than all the orations of Cicero. The only conclusive evidence of a man’s sincerity is that he give himself for a principle. Words, money, all things else, are comparatively easy to give away; but when a man makes a gift of his daily life and practice, it is plain that the truth, whatever it may be, has taken possession of him.

James Russell Lowell (1819-1891) American diplomat, essayist, poet
“Rousseau And The Sentimentalists,” North American Review (Jul 1867)
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What I particularly admire in him is the firm stand he has taken, not only against the oppressors of his countrymen, but also against those opportunists who are always ready to compromise with the Devil. He perceives very clearly that the world is in greater peril from those who tolerate or encourage evil than from those who actually commit it.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
Comments on Pablo Casals (30 Mar 1953)

In Josep Maria Corredor, Conversations avec Pablo Casals [Conversations with Casals] (1955)

Variants / paraphrases:
  • "The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing."
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When a young man who has been going to church in a routine way honestly realises that he does not believe in Christianity and stops going — provided he does it for honesty’s sake and not just to annoy his parents — the spirit of Christ is probably nearer to him then than it ever was before.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, “Let’s Pretend” (1952)
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Morals are your agreement with yourself to abide by your own rules. To thine own self be true or you spoil the game.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Time Enough For Love [Lazarus Long] (1973)
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Be what you wish others to become. Let yourself and not your words preach for you.

Henri-Frédéric Amiel (1821-1881) Swiss philosopher, poet, critic
Journal (7 Apr 1851) [tr. Ward (1887)]
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He preaches well that lives well, quoth Sancho; that’s all the Divinity I understand.

Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) Spanish novelist
Don Quixote, Part 2, Book 3, ch. 29 (1615) [tr. Motteux & Ozell (1743)]
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His preaching much, but more his practice wrought;
(A living sermon of the truths he taught).

John Dryden (1631-1700) English poet, dramatist, critic
“The Character of a Good Parson,” l. 77, Fables (1700)
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When the gap between the ideal and real becomes too wide, the system breaks down.

Barbara W. Tuchman (1912-1989) American historian and author
A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, Foreward (1978)
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I have long since come to believe that people never mean half of what they say, and that it is best to disregard their talk and judge only their actions.

Dorothy Day (1897-1980) American journalist, Catholic social activist
The Long Loneliness: The Autobiography of Dorothy Day (1952)
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Beloved Pan, and all ye other gods who haunt this place, give me beauty in the inward soul; and may the outward and inward man be at one.

Plato (c.428-347 BC) Greek philosopher
Phaedrus, 279 [tr. Jowett (1894)]
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Wisdom without honesty is mere craft and cozenage.

Ben Jonson (1572-1637) English playwright and poet
Timber, or Discoveries Made upon Men and Matter (1641)
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You always said people don’t do what they believe in,
they just do what’s most convenient, then they repent.

Bob Dylan (b. 1941) American singer, songwriter
“Brownsville Girl,” Knocked Out Loaded (1986)
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You can’t pray a lie.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, ch. 31 (1884)
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I frankly admit to not knowing who I am. This is why I refuse to buy clothes that will tell people who I want them to think I am.

Russell Baker (b. 1925) American journalist, author, humorist
“Talking Clothes,” So This Is Depravity (1973)
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It is only when you truly don’t care what people think that you truly don’t need to care what people think.

Abdal Hakim Murad (b. 1960) British Muslim shaykh, researcher, writer, academic [b. Timothy John Winter]
“Contentions 2,” # 5
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I shall stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.

John Bunyan (1628–1688) English Christian writer, preacher
(Attributed)

Quoted in M. L. King, Jr., "Letter from Birmingham City Jail" (16 Apr 1963).
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