Quotations about   pain

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We have all heard enough to fill a book about Dr. Johnson’s incivilities. I wish they would compile another book consisting of Dr. Johnson’s apologies. There is no better test of a man’s ultimate chivalry and integrity than how he behaves when he is wrong; and Johnson behaved very well. He understood (what so many faultlessly polite people do not understand) that a stiff apology is a second insult. He understood that the injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged; he wants to be healed because he has been hurt.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) English journalist and writer
“The Real Dr. Johnson,” The Common Man (1950)
Added on 6-Mar-19 | Last updated 6-Mar-19
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Sorrow is how we learn to love. Your heart isn’t breaking. It hurts because it’s getting larger. The larger it gets, the more love it holds.

Rita Mae Brown (b. 1944) American author, playwright
Riding Shotgun, ch. 17 (1996)
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Added on 26-Feb-18 | Last updated 26-Feb-18
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BUNTY: It’s such fun, being reminded of things.
NICKY: And such agony, too.

Noël Coward (1899-1973) English playwright, actor, wit
The Vortex, Act 1 (1924)
Added on 6-Dec-17 | Last updated 6-Dec-17
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Sure, there are differences in degree, but we’ve got to stop comparing wounds and go out after the system that does the wounding.

Florynce "Flo" Kennedy (1916-2000) American lawyer, feminist, civil rights activist
(Attributed)

Quoted in Gloria Steinem, "The Verbal Karate of Florynce R. Kennedy, Esq.," Ms. (Mar 1973).
Added on 14-Aug-17 | Last updated 14-Aug-17
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There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you.

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) American writer, folklorist, anthropologist
Dust Tracks on a Road, ch. 8 (1942)

Sometimes misattributed to Maya Angelou.
Added on 16-Jun-17 | Last updated 16-Jun-17
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It’s so hard to forget pain, but it’s even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace.

Chuck Palahniuk (b. 1962) American novelist and freelance journalist
Diary (2003)
Added on 29-May-17 | Last updated 29-May-17
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It’s no good trying to keep up old friendships. It’s painful for both sides. The fact is, one grows out of people, and the only thing is to face it.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) English novelist and playwright [William Somerset Maugham]
Cakes and Ale (1930)
Added on 1-Dec-16 | Last updated 1-Dec-16
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There is not so much comfort in the having of children as there is sorrow in parting with them.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia (1732)
Added on 4-Oct-16 | Last updated 4-Oct-16
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Hearts can break. Yes. Hearts can break. Sometimes I think it would be better if we died when they did, but we don’t.

Stephen King (b. 1947) American author
Hearts in Atlantis (1999)
Added on 21-Sep-16 | Last updated 21-Sep-16
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A stranger to human nature, who saw the indifference of men about the misery of their inferiors, and the regret and indignation which they feel for the misfortunes and sufferings of those above them, would be apt to imagine that pain must be more agonizing, and the convulsions of death more terrible, to people of higher rank than to those of meaner stations.

Adam Smith (1723-1790) Scottish economist
The Theory of Moral Sentiments, 1.3.2 (1759)
Added on 14-Sep-16 | Last updated 14-Sep-16
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The more you are drawn to put yourself in the place of the other person, the more you feel the pain inflicted upon him, the insult offered him, the injustice of which he is a victim, the more you will be urged to act so that you may prevent the pain, insult, or injustice.

Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921) Russian activist, scientist, philosopher, anarchist
Anarchist Morality (1909)
Added on 31-Aug-16 | Last updated 31-Aug-16
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The two foes of human happiness are pain and boredom.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) German philosopher
“Personality, or What a Man Is,” The Wisdom of Life; Counsels and Maxims [tr. Saunders (1890)]
Added on 6-Apr-16 | Last updated 6-Apr-16
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Pain makes man think. Thought makes man wise. Wisdom makes life endurable.

Patrick - pain makes man think - wist_info quote

John Patrick (1905-1995) American playwright and screenwriter
The Teahouse of the August Moon, Act 1, sc. 1 (1957)
Added on 9-Mar-16 | Last updated 10-Mar-16
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Pain nourishes my courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave. You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you.

Moore - cant be brave - wist_info quote

Mary Tyler Moore (b. 1936) American actress
Interview, McCall’s, Vol. 108 (1980)
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Added on 23-Feb-16 | Last updated 23-Feb-16
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The more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt. The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers most.

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) French-American religious and writer [a.k.a. Fr. M. Louis]
The Seven Storey Mountain (1948)
Added on 23-Dec-15 | Last updated 23-Dec-15
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My pain may be the reason for somebody’s laugh, but my laugh must never be the reason for somebody’s pain.

Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977) English comic actor, film director, composer
(Attributed)
Added on 5-Aug-15 | Last updated 5-Aug-15
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Philosophy easily triumphs over past ills and ills to come, but present ills triumph over philosophy.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], # 22 (1665-1678) [tr. Tancock (1959)]
Added on 30-Jul-15 | Last updated 30-Jul-15
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I believe that the present suffering is nothing compared to the coming glory that is going to be revealed to us. The whole creation waits breathless with anticipation for the revelation of God’s sons and daughters. Creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice — it was the choice of the one who subjected it — but in the hope that the creation itself will be set free from slavery to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of God’s children. We know that the whole creation is groaning together and suffering labor pains up until now. And it’s not only the creation. We ourselves who have the Spirit as the first crop of the harvest also groan inside as we wait to be adopted and for our bodies to be set free. We were saved in hope. If we see what we hope for, that isn’t hope. Who hopes for what they already see? But if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience.

The Bible (14th C BC - 2nd C AD) Christian sacred scripture
Romans 8:18-25
Added on 25-Feb-15 | Last updated 25-Feb-15
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No sacrifice is worth the name unless it is a joy. Sacrifice and a long face go ill together.

Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948) Indian philosopher and nationalist [Mahatma Gandhi]
In Young India (25 Jun 1925)
Added on 2-Feb-15 | Last updated 2-Feb-15
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Perhaps the worst thing about suffering is that it finally hardens the hearts of those around it.

Gloria Steinem (b. 1934) American feminist, journalist, activist
Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, “Ruth’s Song” (1983)
Added on 30-Dec-14 | Last updated 30-Dec-14
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Pain is a byproduct of life. That’s the truth. Life sometimes sucks. That’s true for everyone. But if you don’t face the pain and the suck, you don’t ever get the other things either. Laughter. Joy. Love. Pain passes, but those things are worth fighting for. Worth dying for.

Jim Butcher (b. 1971) American author
(Attributed)

Often cited to the short story "Vignette" (also known as "Publicity and Advertising"), but not found there.
Added on 9-Dec-14 | Last updated 9-Dec-14
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Body or mind, heart or soul, we’re all human, and we’re supposed to feel pain. You cut yourself off from it at your own risk.

Jim Butcher (b. 1971) American author
Small Favor (2008)
Added on 27-Aug-14 | Last updated 27-Aug-14
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The pain passes, but the beauty remains.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) French Impressionist artist
(Attributed, 1919)
    (Source)

Quoted in Sisley Huddleston, Paris Salons, Cafés, Studios (1928). When asked by a young Henri Matisse why he still painted when suffering from painful, twisting arthritis in his hands.
Added on 10-Jun-14 | Last updated 10-Jun-14
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Quite often, people who mean well will inquire of me whether I ever ask myself, in the face of my diseases, “Why me?” I never do. If I ask “Why me?” as I am assaulted by heart disease and AIDS, I must ask “Why me?” about my blessings, and question my right to enjoy them. The morning after I won Wimbledon in 1975 I should have asked “Why me?” and doubted that I deserved the victory. If I don’t ask “Why me?” after my victories, I cannot ask “Why me?” after my setbacks and disasters.

Arthur Ashe (1943-1993) American athlete
Days of Grace, ch. 10 (1993)

Often paraphrased (or used elsewhere by Ashe) as "If I were to say 'God, why me?' about the bad things, then I should have said 'God, why me?' about the good things that happened in my life."

Added on 4-Mar-13 | Last updated 11-Sep-15
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No pain, no palm;
No thorns, no throne;
No gall, no glory;
No cross, no crown.

William Penn (1644-1718) English real estate entrepreneur, philosopher, statesman
“No Cross, No Crown” (1682)

Originally written while a prisoner in the Tower of London (1668-69). See Quarles (1821).
Added on 22-May-12 | Last updated 24-May-16
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Pain will force even the truthful to speak falsely.

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings], # 232 [tr. Lyman (1862)]
Added on 12-Dec-11 | Last updated 20-Feb-17
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Zeus, who guided mortals to be wise,
has established his fixed law —
wisdom comes through suffering.
Trouble, with its memories of pain,
drips in our hearts as we try to sleep,
so men against their will
learn to practice moderation.
Favours come to us from gods
seated on their solemn thrones —
such grace is harsh and violent.

τὸν φρονεῖν βροτοὺς ὁδώ-
σαντα, τὸν [πάθει μάθος]
θέντα κυρίως ἔχειν.
στάζει δ’ ἀνθ’ ὕπνου πρὸ καρδίας
μνησιπήμων πόνος· καὶ παρ’ ἄ-
κοντας ἦλθε σωφρονεῖν.
δαιμόνων δέ που χάρις βίαιος
σέλμα σεμνὸν ἡμένων.

Aeschylus - awful grace - wist_info quote

Aeschylus (525-456 BC) Greek dramatist (Æschylus)
Agamemnon, ll. 175-183 [tr. Johnston (2007)]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.:

  • [Hamilton (1930)]: "God, whose law it is that he who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despite, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God."
  • [Hamilton (1937)]: "Guide of mortal man to wisdom, he who has ordained a law, knowledge won through suffering. Drop, drop -- in our sleep, upon the heart sorrow falls, memory’s pain, and to us, though against our very will, even in our own despite, comes wisdom by the awful grace of God."

The first alternate was used, slightly modified, by Robert Kennedy in his speech on the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. (4 Apr 1968). Kennedy's family used it as an epitaph on his grave Arlington National Cemetery: "Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart, until in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom, through the awful grace of God."

See here for more discussion.

Added on 19-Aug-08 | Last updated 4-Dec-15
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But he that dares not grasp the thorn
Should never crave the rose.

Anne Brontë (1820-1849) British novelist, poet [pseud. Acton Bell]
“The Narrow Way” (1848)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Dec-15
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It is not so much the suffering as the senselessness of it that is unendurable.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) German philosopher and poet
(Attributed)

Paraphrased by Nicolas Berdyaev, The Destiny of Man, 2.2.5 (1931) [tr. Duddington (1955)]
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 30-Dec-14
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LEONATO: For there was never a philosopher
That could endure the toothache patiently.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Much Ado About Nothing, Act 5, sc. 1, l. 35 (1598)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 25-Jun-15
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A clay pot sitting in the sun will always be a clay pot. It has to go through the white heat of the furnace to become porcelain.

Mildred W. Struven American Christian Scientist, housewife
(Attributed)

Quoted by her daughter Jean Harris, Stranger in Two Worlds (1986)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 29-May-14
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