Quotations about   personality

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You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.

Plato (c.428-347 BC) Greek philosopher
(Spurious)

Frequently attributed to Plato, starting in the 1950s, but not found in his works. Earliest citation is as a Portuguese proverb, in A Polyglot of Foreign Proverbs, tr. Henry G. Bohn (1857): "Mais descobre huma hora de jogo, que hum anno de conversação." For more see here.
Added on 28-Feb-19 | Last updated 28-Feb-19
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For the whole thing about matrimony is this: We fall in love with a personality, but we must live with a character. Behind the pretty wallpaper and the brightly painted plaster lurk the yards of tangled wire and twisted pipes, ready to run a short or spring a leak on us without a word of warning.

Peter De Vries (1910-1993) American editor, novelist, satirist
Mrs. Wallop (1970)
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Often misquoted as "The difficulty with marriage is that ..."
Added on 1-Aug-18 | Last updated 1-Aug-18
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But in the main, I feel like a brown bag of miscellany propped against a wall. Against a wall in company with other bags, white, red and yellow. Pour out the contents, and there is discovered a jumble of small things priceless and worthless. A first-water diamond, an empty spool, bits of broken glass, lengths of string, a key to a door long since crumbled away, a rusty knife-blade, old shoes saved for a road that never was and never will be, a nail bent under the weight of things too heavy for any nail, a dried flower or two still a little fragrant.

In your hand is the brown bag. On the ground before you is the jumble it held — so much like the jumble in the bags, could they be emptied, that all might be dumped in a single heap and the bags refilled without altering the content of any greatly. A bit of colored glass more or less would not matter. Perhaps that is how the Great Stuffer of Bags filled them in the first place — who knows?

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) American writer, folklorist, anthropologist
“How It Feels to Be Colored Me”, The World Tomorrow (May 1928)
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Added on 16-Aug-17 | Last updated 16-Aug-17
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“Tell me what you read and I’ll tell you who you are” is true enough, but I’d know you better if you told me what you re-read.

François Mauriac (1885-1970) French author, critic, journalist
(Attributed)
Added on 20-Jul-17 | Last updated 20-Jul-17
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Every man has three characters — that which he exhibits, that which he has, and that which he thinks he has.

Alphonse Karr (1808-1890) French journalist and novelist
A Tour Round My Garden [Voyage autour de mon jardin] (1851)
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Added on 25-Apr-17 | Last updated 2-May-17
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As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it — whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.

Harper Lee (b. 1926) American writer [Nellie Harper Lee]
To Kill a Mockingbird, ch. 23 (1960)
Added on 7-Apr-17 | Last updated 7-Apr-17
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An individual has not begun to live until he can rise above the narrow horizons of his particular individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. And this is one of the big problems of life, that so many people never quite get to the point of rising above self. And so they end up the tragic victims of self-centeredness. They end up the victims of distorted and disrupted personality.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
“Conquering Self-Centeredness,” sermon, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama (11 Aug 1957)
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Added on 31-Mar-17 | Last updated 31-Mar-17
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To look up and not down,
To look forward and not back,
To look out and not in — and
To lend a hand.

Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909) American clergyman and author
“Ten Times One is Ten” (1870)
Added on 1-Mar-17 | Last updated 1-Mar-17
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We should not be too hasty in bestowing either our praise or censure on mankind, since we shall often find such a mixture of good and evil in the same character, that it may require a very accurate judgment and a very elaborate inquiry to determine on which side the balance turns.

Henry Fielding (1707-1754) English novelist, dramatist, satirist
The Life and Death of Jonathan Wild, the Great, Vol. 5 (1743)
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Added on 31-Jan-17 | Last updated 31-Jan-17
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People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
The Conduct of Life, “Worship” (1860)
Added on 30-Jan-17 | Last updated 30-Jan-17
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Character is higher than intellect.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
The American Scholar, Sec. 3 (1837)
Added on 3-Jan-17 | Last updated 3-Jan-17
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What you get by reaching your goals is not nearly so important as what you become by reaching them.

ziglar-what-you-become-by-reaching-them-wist_info-quote

Hilary Hinton "Zig" Ziglar (1926-2012) American author, salesperson, motivational speaker
Biscuits, Fleas, and Pump Handles (1974)

Ziglar used multiple variations of this phrase. Also attributed to Goethe and Thoreau. For more discussion see here.
Added on 30-Dec-16 | Last updated 30-Dec-16
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Observe a man’s actions; scrutinize his motives; take note of the things that give him pleasure. How, then, can he hide from you what he really is?

confucius-what-he-really-is-wist_info-quote

Confucius (551-479 BC) Chinese philosopher [Ku'ng Ch'iu / King Qiu, Ku'ng Fu-tzu / Kong Fuzi]
(Attributed)

Attributed in Brian Brown, The Wisdom of the Chinese: Their Philosophy in Sayings and Proverbs (1920).
Added on 29-Nov-16 | Last updated 29-Nov-16
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We begin to notice, besides our particular sinful acts, our sinfulness; begin to be alarmed not only about what we do, but about what we are. This may sound rather difficult, so I will try to make it clear from my own case. When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected; I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself.

Now that may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular acts: they would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated. On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, “Let’s Pretend” (1952)
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Added on 21-Nov-16 | Last updated 21-Nov-16
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You must look into people as well as at them.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son (4 Oct 1746)
Added on 11-Oct-16 | Last updated 11-Oct-16
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We are what we worry about, maybe that’s the lesson of the whole thing.

brust-we-are-what-we-worry-about-wist_info-quote

Steven Brust (b. 1955) American writer, systems programmer
Iorich (2010)
Added on 9-Oct-16 | Last updated 9-Oct-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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One sure window into a person’s soul is his reading list.

Tabor - reading list - wist_info quote

Mary B. W. Tabor (b. 1964) American journalist [Mary Britt Wellford Tabor]
“Book Notes,” New York Times (14 Jun 1995)
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Added on 18-Mar-16 | Last updated 18-Mar-16
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Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words.
Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior.
Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits.
Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values.
Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.

Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948) Indian philosopher and nationalist [Mahatma Gandhi]
(Attributed)

Never specifically cited, and attributed with variations in the language. Also attributed as a Chinese or Buddhist proverb.
Added on 26-Oct-15 | Last updated 26-Oct-15
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To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved, but at what he aspires to.

Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931) Lebanese-American poet, writer, painter [Gibran Khalil Gibran]
(Attributed)
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Added on 14-May-15 | Last updated 16-Aug-19
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Watch how a man takes praise, and there you have the measure of him.

Thomas Burke (1886-1945) British author
In T.P.’s Weekly (8 Jun 1928)
Added on 13-May-15 | Last updated 13-May-15
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Good nature will always supply the absence of beauty; but beauty cannot supply the absence of good nature.

Joseph Addison (1672-1719) English essayist, poet, statesman
The Spectator #306 (6 Feb 1712)
Added on 10-Dec-14 | Last updated 10-Dec-14
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A good leg will fall; a straight back will stoop; a black beard will turn white; a curled pate will grow bald; a fair face will wither; a full eye will wax hollow: but a good heart, Kate, is the sun and the moon; or, rather, the sun, and not the moon; for it shines bright and never changes, but keeps his course truly.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Henry V, Act 5, sc. 2 [Henry] (1599)
    (Source)

Quoted by Walter Mondale as a eulogy for Hubert Humphrey.
Added on 23-Mar-11 | Last updated 26-Oct-18
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‘A good heart will help you to a bonny face, my lad,’ I continued, ‘if you were a regular black; and a bad one will turn the bonniest into something worse than ugly.’

Emily Brontë (1818-1848) British novelist, poet [pseud. Ellis Bell]
Wuthering Heights, ch. 7 [Nelly to Heathcliff] (1847)

Full text.

Added on 25-Jun-08 | Last updated 7-Dec-15
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Men’s maxims reveal their characters.

Luc de Clapiers, Marquis de Vauvenargues (1715-1747) French moralist, essayist, soldier
Reflections and Maxims [Réflexions et maximes], #107 (1746) [tr Stevens (1940)]

Alt. trans.: "The maxims of men reveal their hearts."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 31-Jul-18
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