Quotations about   temptation

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When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago.

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

Frequently attributed to Nietzsche, starting in the late 1950s, but never cited and not found in any of his writings. More discussion here.
Added on 10-Apr-19 | Last updated 10-Apr-19
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Lead me not into temptation. I can find the way myself.

Rita Mae Brown (b. 1944) American author, playwright
(Attributed)
Added on 7-May-18 | Last updated 7-May-18
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Ambition is a Lust that’s never quench’d,
Grows more inflam’d and madder by Enjoyment.

Thomas Otway (1652-1685) English dramatist
The History and Fall of Caius Marius, Act 5, sc. 4 (1680)
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Added on 18-Oct-17 | Last updated 18-Oct-17
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Government was intended to suppress injustice, but it offers new occasions and temptations for the commission of it.

William Godwin (1756-1836) English journalist, political philosopher, novelist
Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, “Summary of Principles” 2.4 (1793)
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Added on 16-Oct-17 | Last updated 16-Oct-17
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Absence and a friendly neighbor washes away love.

Other Authors and Sources
English proverb
Added on 29-Aug-17 | Last updated 29-Aug-17
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Considering the temptations under which politicians are placed, of changing their opinions, or rather their professions of opinion, from motives of self interest, the world will not give them credit for motives of honest conviction, unless when the change shall be to their manifest loss and disadvantage.

Henry Taylor (1800-1886) English dramatist, poet, bureaucrat, man of letters
The Statesman: An Ironical Treatise on the Art of Succeeding, ch. 17 (1836)
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Added on 22-Aug-17 | Last updated 22-Aug-17
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If God didn’t want women to be looked at, he would have made ’em ugly — that’s reasonable, isn’t it? God isn’t a cheat; He set up the game Himself — He wouldn’t rig it so that the marks can’t win, like a flat joint wheel in a town with the fix on. He wouldn’t send anybody to Hell for losing in a crooked game.

Robert A. Heinlein (1909-1988) American writer
Stranger in a Strange Land, ch. 27 [Patty] (1961)
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Added on 21-Jul-17 | Last updated 21-Jul-17
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There are several good protections against temptations, but the surest is cowardice.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Following the Equator, ch. 36, epigraph (1897)
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Added on 3-Jul-17 | Last updated 3-Jul-17
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‘Tis no Sin to be tempted, but to be overcome.

William Penn (1644-1718) English real estate entrepreneur, philosopher, statesman
Some Fruits of Solitude, #450 (1693)
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See Shakespeare.
Added on 19-Jun-17 | Last updated 19-Jun-17
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Blessed is he who has never been tempted; for he knows not the frailty of his rectitude.

Christopher Morley (1890-1957) American journalist, novelist, essayist, poet
Inward Ho!, ch. 1 (1923)
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Added on 12-Jun-17 | Last updated 12-Jun-17
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In general, every evil to which we do not succumb is a benefactor. As the Sandwich Islander believes that the strength and valor of the enemy he kills passes into himself, so we gain the strength of the temptation we resist.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Compensation,” Essays: First Series (1841)
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Added on 22-May-17 | Last updated 22-May-17
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The last temptation is the greatest treason:
To do the right deed for the wrong reason.

T. S. Eliot (1888-1965) American-British poet, critic, playwright [Thomas Stearns Eliot]
Murder in the Cathedral, Act 1 [Thomas] (1935)
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Added on 15-May-17 | Last updated 15-May-17
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The Woman tempted me — and tempts me still!
Lord god, I pray You that she ever will!

Edmund Vance Cooke (1866-1932) Canadian poet
“Adam”
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Added on 8-May-17 | Last updated 8-May-17
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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)
Added on 1-May-17 | Last updated 1-May-17
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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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Added on 11-Apr-17 | Last updated 11-Apr-17
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Some folk have been clearly rid of such pestilent fancies with very full contempt of them, making a cross upon their hearts and bidding the devil avaunt. And sometimes they laugh him to scorn, too, and then turn their mind unto some other matter. And when the devil hath seen that they have set so little by him, after certain essays, made in such times as he thought most fitting, he hath given that temptation quite over. And this he doth not only because the proud spirit cannot endure to be mocked, but also lest, with much tempting the man to the sin to which he could not in conclusion bring him, he should much increase his merit.

Thomas More (1478-1535) English lawyer, social philosopher, statesman, humanist, Christian martyr
Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation, Book 2, sec. 16 (1553)
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More often elided/paraphrased as "The devil ... the proud spirit cannot endure to be mocked" or "The devil, that proud spirit, cannot endure to be mocked."

C. S. Lewis used a mis-elided version as an epigraph to The Screwtape Letters (1942): "The devil ... the prowde spirit ... cannot endure to be mocked."

Sometimes given in the original (?) spellings: "The deuill ... the prowde spirit, cannot endure to be mock'd."
Added on 15-Feb-17 | Last updated 15-Feb-17
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The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn.

Martin Luther (1483-1546) German religious reformer
Table Talk
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Variations:
  • "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not go for texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn."
  • The best way to expel the devil, if he will not depart for texts from Holy Scripture, is to jeer and flout him. [Source]
Added on 14-Feb-17 | Last updated 14-Feb-17
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It was said that God, in order to test mankind which had become swelled with pride as in the time of Noah, had commanded the wise men of that age, among them the Blessed Leibowitz, to devise great engines of war such as had never before been upon the Earth, weapons of such might that they contained the very fires of Hell, and that God had suffered these magi to place the weapons in the hands of princes, and to say to each prince: “Only because the enemies have such a thing have we devised this for thee, in order that they may know that thou hast it also, and fear to strike. See to it, m’Lord, that thou fearest them as much as they shall now fear thee, that none may unleash this dread thing which we have wrought.” But the princes, putting the words of their wise men to naught, thought each to himself: If I but strike quickly enough, and in secret, I shall destroy these others in their sleep, and there will be none to fight back; the earth shall be mine.

Such was the folly of princes, and there followed the Flame Deluge.

Walter M. Miller Jr. (1923-1996) American science fiction writer
A Canticle for Leibowitz, “Fiat Homo,” ch. 6 (1959)
Added on 30-Jan-17 | Last updated 30-Jan-17
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It is, no doubt, impossible to prevent his praying for his mother, but we have means of rendering the prayers innocuous. Make sure that they are always very ‘spiritual’, that he is always concerned with the state of her soul and never with her rheumatism. Two advantages will follow. In the first place, his attention will be kept on what he regards as her sins, by which, with a little guidance from you, he can be induced to mean any of her actions which are inconvenient or irritating to himself. Thus you can keep rubbing the wounds of the day a little sorer even while he is on his knees; the operation is not at all difficult and you will find it very entertaining. In the second place, since his ideas about her soul will be very crude and often erroneous, he will, in some degree, be praying for an imaginary person, and it will be your task to make that imaginary person daily less and less like the real mother — the sharp-tongued old lady at the breakfast table. In time, you may get the cleavage so wide that no thought or feeling from his prayers for the imagined mother will ever flow over into his treatment of the real one. I have had patients of my own so well in hand that they could be turned at a moment’s notice from impassioned prayer for a wife’s or son’s ‘soul’ to beating or insulting the real wife or son without a qualm.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
The Screwtape Letters (1942)
Added on 1-Nov-16 | Last updated 1-Nov-16
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Many a man is saved from being a thief by finding everything locked up.

howe-saved-from-being-a-thief-wist_info-quote

Edgar Watson "Ed" Howe (1853-1937) American journalist and author [E. W. Howe]
Ventures in Common Sense, 4.29 (1919)
Added on 21-Oct-16 | Last updated 21-Oct-16
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The devil’s voice is sweet to hear

Stephen King (b. 1947) American author
Needful Things (1991)
Added on 14-Sep-16 | Last updated 14-Sep-16
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Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
“The Weight of Glory,” sermon, Oxford University Church of St Mary the Virgin (8 Jun 1941)
Added on 22-Jun-16 | Last updated 22-Jun-16
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The folly which we might have ourselves committed is the one which we are least ready to pardon in another.

Joseph Roux (1834-1886) French Catholic priest
Meditations of a Parish Priest: Thoughts, Part 4, #85 (1886)
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Added on 28-Mar-16 | Last updated 28-Mar-16
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“Vice,” said Mr. Dooley, “is a creature of such heejous mein, as Hogan says, that th’ more ye see it th’ betther ye like it.”

[“Vice,” said Mr. Dooley, “is a creature of such hideous mien, as Hogan says, that the more you see it the better you like it.”]

Finley Peter Dunne (1867-1936) American humorist and journalist
“The Crusade Against Vice,” Mr. Dooley’s Opinions (1901)
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Added on 29-Jan-16 | Last updated 29-Jan-16
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Thou canst not prevent the birds from flying above they head, but thou canst prevent their building their nests in thy hair.

Martin Luther (1483-1546) German religious reformer
Letter to Hieronymous Weller (1530)
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On temptation, attributed to "a wise oracle."
Added on 30-Sep-15 | Last updated 30-Sep-15
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For all my rational Western intellect and education, I was for the moment overwhelmed by a primitive sense of living in a world ordered by a malign and perverted god, and it coloured my view of everything that afternoon — even the coconuts. The villagers sold us some and split them open for us. They are almost perfectly designed. You first make a hole and drink the milk, and then you split open the nut with a machete and slice off a segment of the shell, which forms a perfect implement for scooping out the coconut flesh inside. What makes you wonder about the nature of this god character is that he creates something that is so perfectly designed to be of benefit to human beings and then hangs it twenty feet above their heads on a tree with no branches.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
Last Chance to See, ch. 2 (1990)
Added on 13-Jul-15 | Last updated 13-Jul-15
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It is not going in [to the brothel] that is a problem, but not being able to come out.

Aristippus of Cyrene (c. 435 – c. 356 BC) Cyrenaic philosopher, Hedonist
Fragment 59 [Mannebach]
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Added on 5-Jun-15 | Last updated 5-Jun-15
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The actions that are produced by selfish motives are obvious, since they include sexual immorality, moral corruption, doing whatever feels good, idolatry, drug use and casting spells, hate, fighting, obsession, losing your temper, competitive opposition, conflict, selfishness, group rivalry, jealousy, drunkenness, partying, and other things like that. I warn you as I have already warned you, that those who do these kinds of things won’t inherit God’s kingdom.

The Bible (14th C BC - 2nd C AD) Christian sacred scripture
Galatians 5:19-21 (CEB)

Alt. trans.:
  • Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (NRSV)
  • Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (KJV)
Added on 2-Mar-15 | Last updated 2-Mar-15
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Don’t excuse yourself by accusing Satan.

Thomas Brooks (1608-1680) English Puritan divine, writer
(Attributed)
Added on 7-Oct-14 | Last updated 7-Oct-14
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She was temptable — which, if you believe in an all-powerful God, means God intentionally put temptation into Eve. Which seems like a dirty trick, if you ask me.

John Scalzi (b. 1969) American writer
The Ghost Brigades, ch. 13 (2006)
Added on 10-Sep-14 | Last updated 10-Sep-14
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For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

The Bible (14th C BC - 2nd C AD) Christian sacred scripture
Ephesians 6:12 (KJV)

Alt. trans.:

  • "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (NIV)
  • For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (NRSV)
  • For we are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age. (GNT)
Added on 9-Sep-14 | Last updated 9-Sep-14
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Adam was but human — this explains it all. He did not want the apple for the apple’s sake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent; then he would have eaten the serpent.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson, ch. 2 (1894)
Added on 3-Sep-14 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

The Bible (14th C BC - 2nd C AD) Christian sacred scripture
Matthew 26:41
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Added on 22-Apr-14 | Last updated 22-Apr-14
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Better shun the bait than struggle in the snare.

John Dryden (1631-1700) English poet, dramatist, critic
Epistle 13 “To My Honoured Kinsman, John Driden of Chesterton” (1699)
Added on 18-Apr-14 | Last updated 17-Jul-17
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Prosperity doth best discover vice, but adversity doth best discover virtue.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Adversity,” Essays, No. 5 (1625)
Added on 11-Feb-13 | Last updated 16-May-16
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It is good to be without vices, but it is not good to be without temptations.

Walter Bagehot (1826-1877) British businessman, essayist, journalist
Biographical Studies, “Sir George Cornewall Lewis” (1907)
Added on 1-Jul-10 | Last updated 1-May-17
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Whenever the devil harasses you, seek the company of men or drink more, or joke and talk nonsense, or do some other merry thing. Sometimes we must drink more, sport, recreate ourselves, aye, and even sin a little to spite the devil, so that we leave him no place for troubling our consciences with trifles. We are conquered if we try too conscientiously not to sin at all. So when the devil says to you: “Do not drink,” answer him: “I will drink, and right freely, just because you tell me not to.” One must always do what Satan forbids.

Martin Luther (1483-1546) German religious reformer
Letter to Jerome Weller (Jul 1530)
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Alt. trans.: "We are soon defeated if we try too hard not to sin. So when the devil says ‘Do not drink’ answer him: ‘I shall drink, and right freely, just because you tell me not to!’"
Added on 17-Jul-09 | Last updated 9-Feb-16
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He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it — namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain. If he had been a great and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. And this would help him to understand why constructing artificial flowers or performing on a tread-mill is work, while rolling ten-pins or climbing Mont Blanc is only amusement.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, ch. 2 (1876)
Added on 16-Apr-08 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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There are several good protections against temptations, but the surest is cowardice.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Following the Equator (1897)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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