Quotations about   weakness

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The dread of being duped by other nations — the notion that foreign heads are more able, though at the same time foreign hearts are less honest than our own, has always been one of our prevailing weaknesses.

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) English jurist and philosopher
Principles of International Law, Essay 4 “A Plan for Universal and Perpetual Peace” (1796-89)
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Added on 8-Feb-21 | Last updated 8-Feb-21
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The hard line, which has always been arguable in theory and which has had some success in practice, views the imperatives of the cold war as an ineluctable challenge, has encouraged a skeptical view of the limits of negotiation, and has placed its primary trust in ample reserves of strength.
The pseudo-conservative line is distinguishable from this not alone in being more crusade-minded and more risk-oriented in its proposed policies but also in its conviction that those who place greater stress on negotiation and accommodation are either engaged in treasonable conspiracy (the Birch Society’s view) or are guilty of well-nigh criminal failings in moral and intellectual fiber (Goldwater’s).

Richard Hofstadter (1916-1970) American historian and intellectual
“Goldwater and Pseudo-Conservative Politics,” sec. 4 (1965)
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Added on 20-Jan-21 | Last updated 20-Jan-21
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And power must ne’er be yielded to a woman.
For if we must succumb, ’twere better far
To crouch before a man; and thus at least
No one could taunt us with a woman’s rule.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 679ff [Creon] (441 BC) [tr. Donaldson (1848)]
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Alternate translations:

And yield to title to a woman's will.
Better, if needs be, men should cast us out
Than hear it said, a woman proved his match.
[tr. Campbell (1873)]

And not go down before a woman's will.
Else, if I fall, 'twere best a man should strike me;
Lest one should say, 'a woman worsted him.'
[tr. Storr (1859)]

And in no way can we let a woman defeat us. It is better to fall from power, if it is fated, by a man's hand, than that we be called weaker than women.
[tr. Jebb (1891)]

We will not yield
To a weak woman; if we must submit,
At least we will be conquered by a man,
Nor by a female arm thus fall inglorious.
[tr. Werner (1892)]

In no wise suffer a woman to worst us. Better to fall from power, if we must, by a man's hand; then we should not be called weaker than a woman.
[tr. Jebb (1917)]

And no woman shall seduce us. If we must lose,
Let's lose to a man, at least! Is a woman stronger than we?
[tr. Fitts/Fitzgerald (1939), ll. 539-40]

... not let myself be beaten by a woman.
Better, if it must happen, that a man
should overset me.
I won't be called weaker than womankind.
[tr. Wyckoff (1954)]

We must not be
Defeated by a woman. Better far
Be overthrown, if need be, by a man
Than to be called the victim of a woman.
[tr. Kitto (1962)]

Never let some woman triumph over us.
Better to fall from power, if fall we must,
at the hands of a man -- never be rated
inferior to a woman, never.
[tr. Fagles (1982)]

And there must be no surrender to a woman.
No! If we call, better a man should take us down.
Never say that a woman bested us!
[tr. Woodruff (2001), l. 669 ff]

Defeat by a woman must never happen.
It is better, if it is bound to happen, to be expelled by a man.
We could not be called "defeated by women" -- could not.
[tr. Tyrell/Bennett (2002), l. 678ff]

Under no circumstances must he allow a woman to defeat him. It would be best -- if needs be -- to be defeated by a man, rather then allow it to be said that women have taken over.
[tr. Theodoridis (2004)]

And never let some woman beat us down.
If we must fall from power, let that come
at some man's hand -- at least, we won't be called
inferior to any woman.
[tr. Johnston (2005), l. 770ff]
Added on 14-Jan-21 | Last updated 14-Jan-21
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He [the pseudo-conservative] sees his own country as being so weak that it is constantly about to fall victim to subversion; and yet he feels that it is so all-powerful that any failure it may experience in getting its own way in the world … cannot possibly be due to its limitations but must be attributed to its having been betrayed.

Richard Hofstadter (1916-1970) American historian and intellectual
“The Pseudo-Conservative Revolt” (1954)
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Added on 28-Oct-20 | Last updated 28-Oct-20
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Bragging is not merely designed to impress. Bragging is designed to produce envy and assert superiority. It is, therefore, an act of hostility. Bragging is also a transparent ploy. It reveals your lack of self-confidence. “I am not enough,” you feel. So you resort to showering me with your “achievements,” in order to mask your perceived deficiencies.

Aaron Hass (contemp.) American clinical psychiatrist, academic, author
Doing the Right Thing: Cultivating Your Moral Intelligence, Sec. 1, ch. 7 “Self-Control” (1998)
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Added on 26-May-20 | Last updated 26-May-20
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CHORUS [LEADER]:
Ye Children of Man! whose life is a span,
Protracted with sorrow from day to day,
Naked and featherless, feeble and querulous,
Sickly, calamitous creatures of clay!

[ἄγε δὴ φύσιν ἄνδρες ἀμαυρόβιοι, φύλλων γενεᾷ προσόμοιοι,
ὀλιγοδρανέες, πλάσματα πηλοῦ, σκιοειδέα φῦλ᾽ ἀμενηνά,
ἀπτῆνες ἐφημέριοι ταλαοὶ βροτοὶ ἀνέρες εἰκελόνειροι]

Aristophanes (c.450-c.388 BC) Athenian comedic playwright
The Birds, ll. 685-687 (414 BC) [tr. Frere (1839)]
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Alt. trans.:
  • "Come now, ye men, in nature darkling, like to the race of leaves, of little might, figures of clay, shadowy feeble tribes, wingless creatures of a day, miserable mortals, dream-like men." [tr. Hickie (1853)]
  • "Weak mortals, chained to the earth, creatures of clay as frail as the foliage of the woods, you unfortunate race, whose life is but darkness, as unreal as a shadow, the illusion of a dream." [tr. O'Neill (1938)]
  • "Come, ye of mortal mould, whose life is spent in darkness, ye who are like to the race of leaves, ye that are weak in action, ye images of clay, ye feeble shadowy tribes, ye wingless creatures of a day, ye miserable mortals, ye men like unto the stuff which dreams are made of ...." [tr. Warter (1830)]
  • "Now then, ye men by nature just faintly alive, like to the race of leaves, do-littles, artefacts of clay, tribes shadowy and feeble, wingless ephemerals, suffering mortals, dreamlike people ...." [tr. Henderson (1998)]
  • "Ye men who are dimly existing below, who perish and fade as the leaf, / Pale, woebegone, shadowlike, spiritless folk, life feeble and wingless and brief, / Frail castings in clay, who are gone in a day, like a dream full of sorrow and sighing ...." [tr. Rogers (1906)]
Added on 22-Apr-20 | Last updated 22-Apr-20
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When the lambs is lost in the mountain, he said. They is cry. Sometime come the mother. Sometime the wolf.

Cormac McCarthy (b. 1933) American novelist, playwright, screenwriter
Blood Meridian, ch. 5 (1985)
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Added on 22-Jan-20 | Last updated 23-Jan-20
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I was thinking I’d want my daughters to know how much I love them, but I’d also want them to know that being a strong man includes being kind. That there’s nothing weak about kindness and compassion. There’s nothing weak about looking out for others. There’s nothing weak about being honorable. You’re not a sucker to have integrity, and to treat others with respect.

Barack Obama (b. 1961) American politician, US President (2009-2017)
Speech, Funeral of Elijah Cummings, Washington, DC (25 Oct 2019)
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Added on 28-Oct-19 | Last updated 28-Oct-19
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In our judgment of men, we are to beware of giving any great importance to occasional acts. By acts of occasional virtue weak men endeavour to redeem themselves in their own estimation, vain men to exalt themselves in that of mankind.

Henry Taylor (1800-1886) English dramatist, poet, bureaucrat, man of letters
The Statesman: An Ironical Treatise on the Art of Succeeding, ch. 3 (1836)
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It is also characteristic of the great-souled man … to be haughty towards men of position and fortune, but courteous towards those of moderate station, because it is difficult and distinguished to be superior to the great, but easy to outdo the lowly, and to adopt a high manner with the former is not ill-bred, but it is vulgar to lord it over humble people: it is like putting forth one’s strength against the weak.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Nicomachean Ethics, Book 4, ch. 3, l. 26 – 1124b.19 [tr. Rackham]
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Sometimes paraphrased: "It is not ill-bred to adopt a high manner with the great and the powerful, but it is vulgar to lord it over humble people."

Alt. trans.: "Towards those in high position and prosperity he bears himself with pride, but towards ordinary men with moderation; for in the former case it is difficult to show superiority, and to do so is a lordly mater; whereas in the latter case it is easy. To be haughty among the great is no proof of bad breeding, but haughtiness among the lowly is as base-born a thing as it is to make trial of great strength upon the weak." [tr. Williams (1869)]
Added on 3-Aug-17 | Last updated 3-Aug-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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Like all weak men he laid an exaggerated stress on not changing one’s mind.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) English novelist and playwright [William Somerset Maugham]
Of Human Bondage, ch. 39 (1915)
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Added on 15-Jun-17 | Last updated 15-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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There is nothing softer and weaker than water.
And yet there is nothing better for attacking hard and strong things.
For this reason there is no substitute for it.
All the world knows that the weak overcomes the strong and the soft overcomes the hard.
But none can practice it.

Lao-tzu (604?-531? BC) Chinese philosopher, poet [also Lao-tse, Laozi]
Tao-te Ching, ch. 78 [tr. Wing-Tsit Chan]
Added on 19-Apr-17 | Last updated 19-Apr-17
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Cunning is the art of concealing our own defects, and discovering other people’s weaknesses.

William Hazlitt (1778-1830) English writer
Characteristics in the Manner of Rochefoucault’s Maxims (1823)
Added on 24-Mar-17 | Last updated 24-Mar-17
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A weak man wants az mutch watching as a bad one.

[A weak man wants as much watching as a bad.]

Josh Billings (1818-1885) American humorist [pseud. of Henry Wheeler Shaw]
Everybody’s Friend, Or; Josh Billing’s Encyclopedia and Proverbial Philosophy of Wit and Humor, “Koarse Shot” (1874)
Added on 14-Dec-16 | Last updated 5-May-19
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Terrorism and deception are weapons not of the strong but of the weak.

Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948) Indian philosopher and nationalist [Mahatma Gandhi]
In Young India (22 Sep 1920)
Added on 28-Nov-16 | Last updated 28-Nov-16
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Nay, number (itself) in armies, importeth not much, where the people is of weak courage; for (as Virgil saith) it never troubles the wolf how many the sheep be.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Essays or Counsels Civil and Moral, ch. 24 “Of the True Greatness of Kingdoms and Estates” (1597)
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In the end, a life of prayer is a life with open hands where we are not ashamed of our weakness but realize that it is more perfect for us to be led by the Other than to try to hold everything in our own hands.

Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) Dutch Catholic priest and writer
With Open Hands (1972)
Added on 29-Apr-16 | Last updated 29-Apr-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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Although men are accused of not knowing their own weakness, yet perhaps as few know their own strength. It is in men as in soils, where sometimes there is a vein of gold, which the owner knows not of.

Swift - vein of gold - wist_info

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
“Thoughts on Various Subjects” (1706)
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Added on 29-Oct-15 | Last updated 3-Jun-16
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I hate to see a thing done by halves; if it be right, do it boldly; if it be wrong, leave it undone.

Bernard Gilpin (1517-1583) English theologian and clergyman
(Attributed)
Added on 8-Jun-15 | Last updated 8-Jun-15
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It would be some time before I fully realized that the United States sees little need for diplomacy; power is enough. Only the weak rely on diplomacy. This is why the weak are so deeply concerned with the democratic principle of the sovereign equality of states, as a means of providing some small measure of equality for that which is not equal in fact. Coming from a developing country, I was trained extensively in international law and diplomacy and mistakenly assumed that the great powers, especially the United States, also trained their representatives in diplomacy and accepted the value of it. But the Roman Empire had no need for diplomacy. Nor does the United States. Diplomacy is perceived by an imperial power as a waste of time and prestige and a sign of weakness.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali (b. 1922) Egyptian politician, diplomat, UN Secretary-General (1992-1996)
Unvanquished: A U.S.-U.N. Saga (1999)
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The question [is] asked, “Is it common for a nation to obtain a redress of wrongs by war?” The answer to this question you will of course draw from history. In the meantime, reason will answer it on grounds of probability, that where the wrong has been done by a weaker nation, the stronger one has generally been able to enforce redress; but where by a stronger nation, redress by war has been neither obtained nor expected by the weaker. On the contrary, the loss has been increased by the expenses of the war in blood and treasure. Yet it may have obtained another object equally securing itself from future wrong. It may have retaliated on the aggressor losses of blood and treasure far beyond the value to him of the wrong he had committed, and thus have made the advantage of that too dear a purchase to leave him in a disposition to renew the wrong in future. In this way the loss by the war may have secured the weaker nation from loss by future wrong.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to Noah Worcester (1816) [ME 14:415]
Added on 17-Mar-15 | Last updated 17-Mar-15
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People in general will much better bear being told of their vices or crimes than of their little failings or weaknesses.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son (26 Nov 1749)
Added on 16-Mar-15 | Last updated 16-Mar-15
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The weak have one weapon: the errors of those who think they are strong.

Georges Bidault (1899-1983) French politician, diplomat
In The Observer (15 Jul 1962)
Added on 11-Nov-14 | Last updated 11-Nov-14
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There is no method more likely to cure passion and rashness, than the frequent and attentive consideration of one’s own weaknesses: this will work into the mind an habitual sense of the need one has of being pardoned, and will bring down the swelling pride and obstinacy of heart, which are the cause of hasty passion.

James Burgh (1714-1775) British politician and writer
The Dignity of Human Nature, Sec. 5 “Miscellaneous Thoughts on Prudence in Conversation” (1754)
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Added on 16-Oct-14 | Last updated 16-Oct-14
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I was too weak to defend, so I attacked.

Robert E. Lee (1807-1870) American military leader
(Attributed)

On his strategy at the Battle of Chancellorsville (1863).
Added on 25-Sep-14 | Last updated 25-Sep-14
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There is nothing that makes more cowards and feeble men than public opinion.

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) American clergyman and orator
Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit (1887)
Added on 22-Aug-14 | Last updated 22-Aug-14
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The strong do what they can, and the weak suffer what they must.

Thucydides (c. 460-400 BC) Greek historian
History of the Peloponnesian War, Book 5, ch. 89 [tr. Crawley and Wick (1982)]
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The moral dilemma that is presented to the weak in a world governed by the strong: Break the rules or perish.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Such, Such Were the Joys” (1947)
Added on 12-Aug-14 | Last updated 12-Aug-14
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Let us speak, though we show all our faults and weaknesses — for it is a sign of strength to be weak, to know it, and out with it — not in a set way and ostentatiously, but incidentally and without premeditation.

Herman Melville (1819-1891) American writer
Letter to Nathaniel Hawthorne (29 Jun 1851)
Added on 9-Jul-14 | Last updated 9-Jul-14
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No people in history have preserved their freedom who thought that by not being strong enough to protect themselves they might prove inoffensive to their enemies.

Dean Acheson (1893-1971) American statesman
National Security Council Report 68 (NSC-68), Sec. 7 “Present Risks” (14 Apr 1950) [with Paul Nitze]
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Usually paraphrased as "No people in history have ever survived who thought they could protect their freedom by making themselves inoffensive to their enemies."
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No Man is the worse for knowing the worst of himself.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, #3601 (1732)
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A strong nation, like a strong person, can afford to be gentle, firm, thoughtful, and restrained. It can afford to extend a helping hand to others. It’s a weak nation, like a weak person, that must behave with bluster and boasting and rashness and other signs of insecurity.

Jimmy Carter (b. 1924) American politician, US President (1977-1981), Nobel laureate [James Earl Carter, Jr.]
“Warm Hearts and Cool Heads,” speech, Liberal Party dinner, New York City (14 Oct 1976)
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The title of the speech was from a phrase coined by Adlai Stevenson.
Added on 11-Oct-07 | Last updated 5-Jan-21
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Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) American clergyman and orator
“Subtleties of Book Buyers,” Star Papers (1855)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 31-Mar-16
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