Quotations about:
    weakness


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The noble-minded worry about their lack of ability, not about people’s failure to recognize their ability.

[君子病無能焉、不病人之不己知也]

Confucius (c. 551- c. 479 BC) Chinese philosopher, sage, politician [孔夫子 (Kǒng Fūzǐ, K'ung Fu-tzu, K'ung Fu Tse), 孔子 (Kǒngzǐ, Chungni), 孔丘 (Kǒng Qiū, K'ung Ch'iu)]
The Analects [論語, 论语, Lúnyǔ], Book 15, verse 19 (15.19) (6th C. BC – AD 3rd C.) [tr. Hinton (1998)]
    (Source)

(Source (Chinese)). See also 1.16, 4.14, 14.30. Legge and other early translators numbered this, as shown below, 15.18. Alternate translations:

The superior man is distressed by his want of ability. He is not distressed by men's not knowing him.
[tr. Legge (1861), 15.18]

The trouble of the superior man will be his own want of ability: it will be no trouble to him that others do not know him.
[tr. Jennings (1895), 15.18]

A wise and good man should be distressed that he has no ability ; he should never be distressed that men do not take notice of him.
[tr. Ku Hung-Ming (1898), 15.18]

The noble man is pained over his own incompetency, he is not pained that others ignore him.
[tr. Soothill (1910), 15.18]

The proper man is irritated by his incapacities, not irritated by other people not recognizing him.
[tr. Pound (1933), 15.18]

A gentleman is distressed by his own lack of capacity; he is never distressed at the failure of others to recognize his merits.
[tr. Waley (1938), 15.18]

The gentleman is troubled by his own lack of ability, not by the failure of others to appreciate him.
[tr. Lau (1979)]

The gentleman is pained at the lack of ability within himself; he is not pained at the fact that others do not appreciate him.
[tr. Dawson (1993)]

A gentleman resents his incompetence; he does not resent his obscurity.
[tr. Leys (1997)]

The gentleman worries about his incapability; he does not worry about men not knowing him.
[tr. Huang (1997)]

A gentleman worries about that he does not have the ability, does not worrya bout that others do not understand him.
[tr. Cai/Yu (1998), #403]

Exemplary persons (junzi) are distressed by their own lack of ability, not by the failure of others to acknowledge them.
[tr. Ames/Rosemont (1998)]

The gentleman takes it as a fault if he is incapable of something; he does not take it as a fault if others do not know him.
[tr. Brooks/Brooks (1998)]

The gentleman is distressed by his own inability, rather than the failure of others to recognize him.
[tr. Slingerland (2003)]

The gentleman is troubled by his own lack of ability. He is not troubled by the fact that others do not understand him.
[tr. Watson (2007)]

The gentleman is worried about his own lack of ability and not about the fact that others do not appreciate him.
[tr. Chin (2014)]

A Jun Zi is disappointed about his own incompetency. He is not distressed that he is not known by others.
[tr. Li (2020)]

 
Added on 31-Oct-22 | Last updated 31-Oct-22
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Know your major defect. Every talent is balanced by a fault, and if you give in to it, it will govern you like a tyrant.

[Conocer su defecto rey. Ninguno vive sin él, contrapeso de la prenda relevante; y si le favorece la inclinación, apodérase a lo tirano.]

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], § 225 (1647) [tr. Maurer (1992)]
    (Source)

(Source (Spanish)). Alternate translations:

Know your chief fault. There lives none that has not in himself a counterbalance to his most conspicuous merit: if this be nourished by desire, it may grow to be a tyrant.
[tr. Jacobs (1892)]

Know your chief weakness. No one lives without some counterweight to even his greatest gift, which when petted, assumes tyranny.
[tr. Fischer (1937)]

 
Added on 17-Oct-22 | Last updated 17-Oct-22
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If any young Miss reads this autobiography and wants a little advice from a very old hand, I will say to her, when a man threatens to commit suicide after you have refused him, you may be quite sure he is a vain, petty fellow or a great goose; if you felt any doubts about your decision before, you need have none after this and under no circumstances must you give way. To marry a man out of pity is folly; and if you think you are going to influence the kind of fellow who has “never had a chance, poor devil,” you are profoundly mistaken. One can only influence the strong characters in life, not the weak; and it is the height of vanity to suppose that you can make an honest man of anyone.

Margot Asquith
Margot Asquith (1864-1945) British socialite, author, wit [Emma Margaret Asquith, Countess Oxford and Asquith; Margot Oxford; née Tennant]
Autobiography, Vol. 1, ch. 7 (1920)
    (Source)

In a similar vein, in More or Less about Myself, ch. 5 (1934) she wrote: "It is easier to influence strong than weak characters in life."
 
Added on 26-Sep-22 | Last updated 26-Sep-22
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The most dangerous men on earth are those who are afraid that they are wimps.

James Gilligan (b. c. 1936) American psychiatrist and author
Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic, ch. 3 (1997)
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Added on 12-Jul-22 | Last updated 12-Jul-22
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When will the churches learn that intolerance, personal or ecclesiastical, is an evidence of weakness? The confident can afford to be calm and kindly; only the fearful must defame and exclude.

Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969) American clergyman, author, teacher
“Tolerance,” sec. 3, Adventurous Religion (1926)
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Added on 13-Apr-22 | Last updated 13-Apr-22
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It is the people with secret attractions to various temptations who busy themselves most with removing those temptations from other people; really they are defending themselves under the pretext of defending others, because at heart they fear their own weakness.

Ernest Jones
Ernest Jones (1879-1958) Welsh neurologist and psychoanalyst
“Criticisms of Psycho-Analytic Treatment,” Speech, Chicago Neurological and Chicago Medical Societies (18 Jan 1911)

Originally published in the American Journal of the Medical Sciences (Jul 1911). Reprinted in Papers on Psycho-Analysis, ch. 12 (1918).
 
Added on 30-Mar-22 | Last updated 30-Mar-22
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The mistakes I made from weakness do not embarrass me nearly so much as those I made insisting on my strength.

James Richardson (b. 1950) American poet
“Vectors: 56 Aphorisms and Ten-second Essays,” Michigan Quarterly Review, #27 (Spring 1999)
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Added on 7-Dec-21 | Last updated 7-Dec-21
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There is always a certain glamour about the idea of a nation rising up to crush an evil simply because it is wrong. Unfortunately, this can seldom be realized in real life; for the very existence of the evil usually argues a moral weakness in the very place where extraordinary moral strength is called for.

W. E. B. Du Bois (1868-1963) American writer, historian, social reformer [William Edward Burghardt Du Bois]
The Suppression of the African Slave-Trade to the United States of America, ch. 12, sec. 93 (1896)
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Added on 23-Nov-21 | Last updated 23-Nov-21
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A person who has no genuine sense of pity for the weak is missing a basic source of strength, for one of the prime moral forces that comprise greatness and strength of character is a feeling of mercy. The ruthless man, au fond, is always a weak and frightened man.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
“Strictly Personal” column (5 Apr 1962)
    (Source)

Reprinted in On the Contrary (1964).
 
Added on 5-Nov-21 | Last updated 5-Nov-21
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For whoever reflects on the nature of things, the various turns of life, and the weakness of human nature, grieves, indeed, at that reflection; but while so grieving he is, above all other times, behaving as a wise man: for he gains these two things by it; one, that while he is considering the state of human nature he is performing the especial duties of philosophy, and is provided with a triple medicine against adversity: in the first place, because he has long reflected that such things might befall him, and this reflection by itself contributes much towards lessening and weakening all misfortunes; and, secondly, because he is persuaded that we should bear all the accidents which can happen to a man, with the feelings and spirit of a man; and lastly, because he considers that what is blameable is the only evil; but it is not your fault that something has happened to you which it was impossible for man to avoid.

[Neque enim qui rerum naturam, qui vitae varietatem, qui imbecillitatem generis humani cogitat, maeret, cum haec cogitat, sed tum vel maxime sapientiae fungitur munere. Utrumque enim consequitur, ut et considerandis rebus humanis proprio philosophiae fruatur officio et adversis casibus triplici consolatione sanetur: primum quod posse accidere diu cogitavit, quae cogitatio una maxime molestias omnes extenuat et diluit; deinde quod humana humane ferenda intelligit; postremo quod videt malum nullum esse nisi culpam, culpam autem nullam esse, cum id, quod ab homine non potuerit praestari, evenerit.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Tusculan Disputations [Tusculanae Disputationes], Book 3, ch. 16 (3.16) / sec. 34 (45 BC) [tr. Yonge (1853)]
    (Source)

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

For he that considers the order of Nature, and the Vicissitudes of Life, and the Frailty of Mankind is not melancholly when he considers these things, but is then most principally imploy'd in the exercise of Wisdom, for he reaps a double advantage; both that in the consideration of man's circumstances, he enjoyeth the proper Office of Philosophy; and in case of Adversity, he is supported by a threefold Consolation. First, that he hath long consider'd that such accidents might come; which consideration alone doth most weaken and allay all Afflictions. Then he cometh to learn, that all Tryals common to men, should be born, as such, patiently. Lastly, that he perceiveth there is no Evil, but where is blame; but there is no blame, when that falls out, the Prevention of which, was not in man to warrant.
[tr. Wase (1643)]

For whoever reflects on the nature of things, the various turns of life, the weakness of human nature, grieves indeed at that reflection; but that grief becomes him as a wise man, for he gains these two points by it; when he is considering the state of human nature he is enjoying all the advantage of philosophy, and is provided with a triple medicine against adversity. The first is, that he has long reflected that such things might befall him, which reflection alone contributes much towards lessening all misfortunes: the next is, that he is persuaded, that we should submit to the condition of human nature: the last is, that he discovers what is blameable to be the only evil. But it is not your fault that something lights on you, which it was impossible for man to avoid.
[tr. Main (1824)]

For neither does he who contemplates the nature of things, the mutations of life, the fragility of man, grieve when he thinks of these matters, but then most especially exercises the office of wisdom. For, by the study of human affairs, he at once pursues the proper aim of philosophy, and provides himself with a triple consolation for adverse events: -- first, that he has long deemed them possible to arrive; which one consideration has the greatest efficacy for the extenuation and mitigation of all misfortune: and, next, he perceives that human accidents are to be borne like a man: and, finally, because he sees there is no evil but fault, and that there is no fault where that has happened which man could not have prevented.
[tr. Otis (1839)]

Indeed, he who thinks of the nature of things, of the varying fortune of life, of the weakness of the human race, does not sorrow when these things are on his mind, but he then most truly performs the office of wisdom; for from such thought there are two consequences, -- the one, that he discharges the peculiar function of philosophy; the other, that in adversity he has the curative aid of a threefold consolation: first, because, as he has long thought what may happen, this sole thought is of the greatest power in attenuating and diluting every trouble; next, because he understands that human fortunes are to be borne in a way befitting human nature; -- lastly, because he sees that there is no evil but guilt, while there is no guilt in the happening of what man could not have prevented.
[tr. Peabody (1886)]

For the person who reflects on the nature of things, on the variety of life, and the precarity of human existence is not sad in considering these things but is carrying out the duty of wisdom in the fullest way. For they pursue both in enjoying the particular harvest of philosophy by considering what happens in human life and in suffering adverse outcomes by cleansing with a three-part solace. First, by previously accepting the possibility of misfortune—which is the most way of weakening and managing any annoyance and second, by learning that human events must be endured humanely; and third, by recognizing that there is nothing evil except for blame and there is no blame when the event is something against which no human can endure.
[tr. @sentantiq (2021)]

 
Added on 18-Oct-21 | Last updated 11-Aug-22
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Both Christianity and alcohol have the power to convince us that what we previously thought deficient in ourselves and the world does not require attention; both weaken our resolve to garden our problems; both deny us the chance to fulfilment.

Alain de Botton (b. 1969) Swiss-British author
The Consolations of Philosophy, ch. 6 “Consolation for Difficulties” (sec. 19) (2000)
    (Source)

Sometimes attributed to, but actually summarizing, Friedrich Nietzsche, who himself wrote of "the two great European narcotics, alcohol and Christianity" (Twilight of the Idols, "Things the Germans Lack" (sec. 2) (1888) [tr. Ludovici]).
 
Added on 14-Oct-21 | Last updated 14-Oct-21
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However rationalized it may be, censorship is always an attack on human intelligence and imagination and is always a sign of weakness, not strength, in those who enforce it.

Northrop Frye (1912-1991) Canadian literary critic and literary theorist
“Introduction to Canadian Literature,” #14 (1988)
    (Source)
 
Added on 2-Sep-21 | Last updated 2-Sep-21
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When the weak want to give an impression of strength they hint meaningfully at their capacity for evil. It is by its promise of a sense of power that evil often attracts the weak.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) American writer, philosopher, longshoreman
The Passionate State of Mind, Aphorism 91 (1955)
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Added on 9-Aug-21 | Last updated 23-Jun-22
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Our strength is often composed of the weakness that we’re damned if we’re going to show.

Mignon McLaughlin (1913-1983) American journalist and author
The Second Neurotics Handbook, ch. 10 (1966)
    (Source)
 
Added on 3-Jun-21 | Last updated 10-Mar-22
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It is often said that governing is the art of compromise. But this is not a statement about governing; it is rather about the values of democracy. Legislating in the common interest means not confusing one’s own values with the common values. It requires giving equal weight to values that one does not share. But too often, commitment to this principle appears weak — a failure to stand by one’s principles.

Jason Stanley (b. 1969) American philosopher, epistemologist, academic
“Democracy and the Demagogue,” New York Times (12 Oct 2015)
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Added on 10-May-21 | Last updated 10-May-21
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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
Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) English jurist and philosopher
Principles of International Law, Essay 4 “A Plan for Universal and Perpetual Peace” (1796-89)
    (Source)
 
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)]
    (Source)

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 9-May-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)]
    (Source)

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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Added on 8-Aug-17 | Last updated 8-Aug-17
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Again, it is proper to the magnanimous person to ask for nothing, or hardly anything, but to help eagerly. When he meets people with good fortune or a reputation for worth, he displays his greatness, since superiority over them is difficult and impressive, and there is nothing ignoble in trying to be impressive with them. But when he meets ordinary people, he is moderate, since superiority over them is easy, and an attempt to be impressive among inferiors is as vulgar as a display of strength against the weak.

[μεγαλοψύχου δὲ καὶ τὸ μηδενὸς δεῖσθαι ἢ μόλις, ὑπηρετεῖν δὲ προθύμως, καὶ πρὸς μὲν τοὺς ἐν ἀξιώματι καὶ εὐτυχίαις μέγαν εἶναι, πρὸς δὲ τοὺς μέσους μέτριον: τῶν μὲν γὰρ ὑπερέχειν χαλεπὸν καὶ σεμνόν, τῶν δὲ ῥᾴδιον, καὶ ἐπ᾽ ἐκείνοις μὲν σεμνύνεσθαι οὐκ ἀγεννές, ἐν δὲ τοῖς ταπεινοῖς φορτικόν, ὥσπερ εἰς τοὺς ἀσθενεῖς ἰσχυρίζεσθαι.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Nicomachean Ethics [Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια], Book 4, ch. 3 (4.3.26) / 1124b.18 (c. 325 BC) [tr. Irwin (1999)]
    (Source)

The core word Aristotle is using is μεγαλοψυχία (translated variously as high-mindedness, great-mindedness, pride, great-soulness, magnanimity). (Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

Further, it is characteristic of the Great-minded man to ask favours not at all, or very reluctantly, but to do a service very readily; and to bear himself loftily towards the great or fortunate, but towards people of middle station affably; because to be above the former is difficult and so a grand thing, but to be above the latter is easy; and to be high and mighty towards the former is not ignoble, but to do it towards those of humble station would be low and vulgar; it would be like parading strength against the weak.
[tr. Chase (1847)]

It would seem, too, that the high-minded man asks favours of no one, or, at any rate, asks them with the greatest reluctance, but that he is always eager to do good offices to others; and that 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)]

It is characteristic too of the high-minded man that he never, or hardly ever, asks a favor, that he is ready to do anybody a service, and that, although his bearing is stately towards person of dignity and affluence, it is unassuming toward the middle class; for while it is a difficult and dignified thing to be superior to the former, it is easy enough to be superior to the latter, and while a dignified demeanour in dealing with the former is a mark of nobility, it is a mark of vulgarity ind ealing with the latter, as it like a display of physical strength at the expense of an invalid.
[tr. Welldon (1892), ch. 8]

It is characteristic of the high-minded man, again, never or reluctantly to ask favours, but to be ready to confer them, and to be lofty in his behaviour to those who are high in station and favoured by fortune, but affable to those of the middle ranks; for it is a difficult thing and a dignified thing to assert superiority over the former, but easy to assert it over the latter. A haughty demeanour in dealing with the great is quite consistent with good breeding, but in dealing with those of low estate is brutal, like showing off one’s strength upon a cripple.
[tr. Peters (1893)]

It is a mark of the proud man also to ask for nothing or scarcely anything, but to give help readily, and to be dignified towards people who enjoy high position and good fortune, but unassuming towards those of the middle class; for it is a difficult and lofty thing to be superior to the former, but easy to be so to the latter, and a lofty bearing over the former is no mark of ill-breeding, but among humble people it is as vulgar as a display of strength against the weak.
[tr. Ross (1908)]

It is also characteristic of the great-souled man never to ask help from others, or only with reluctance, but to render aid willingly; and 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.
[tr. Rackham (1934)]

It is also characteristic of a great-souled person to ask for nothing or hardly anything but to offer his services eagerly, and to exhibit his greatness to those with a reputation for great worth or those who are enjoying good luck, but to moderate his greatness to those in the middle. For it is a difficult and a dignified thing to show oneself superior to the former, but an easy one to do so to the latter, and, while adopting a dignified manner toward the former is not ill-bred, to do so toward humble people is vulgar, like displaying strength against the weak.
[tr. Reeve (1948)]

It is the mark of a high-minded man, too, never, or hardly ever, to ask for help, but to be of help to others readily, and to be dignified with men of high position or of good fortune, but unassuming with those of middle class, for it is difficult and impressive to be superior to the former, but easy to be so to the latter; and whereas being impressive to the former is not a mark of a lowly man, being so to the humble is crude -- it is like using physical force against the physically weak.
[tr. Apostle (1975)]

Another mark of the magnanimous man is that he never, or only reluctantly, makes a request, whereas he is eager to help others. He his haughty toward those who are influential and successful, but moderate toward those who have an intermediate position in society, because in the former case to be superior is difficult and impressive, but in the latter it is easy' and to create an impression at the expense of the former is not ill-bred, but to do so among the humble is vulgar.
[tr. Thomson/Tredennick (1976)]

It is also characteristic of a great-souled person to ask for nothing, or almost nothing, but to help others readily; and to be dignified in his behavior towards people of distinction or the well-off, but unassuming toward people at the middle level. Superiority over the first group is difficult and impressive, but over the second it is easy, and attempting to impress the first group is not ill-bred, while in the case of humble people it is vulgar, like a show of strength against the weak.
[tr. Crisp (2000)]

It belongs to the great-souled also to need nothing, or scarcely anything, but to be eager to be of service, and to be great in the presence of people of worth and good fortune, but measured toward those of a middling rank. For it is a difficult and august thing to be superior among the fortunate, but easy to be that way among the middling sorts; and to exalt oneself among the former is not a lowborn thing, but to do so among the latter is crude, just as is using one's strength against the weak.
[tr. Bartlett/Collins (2011)]

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.

 
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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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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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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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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]
 
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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)
 
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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)
 
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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)
 
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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)
 
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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
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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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)
 
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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 (1922-2016) 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 (29 Jan 1816)
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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, #204 (26 Nov 1749)
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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)
 
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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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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).
 
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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)
 
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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)
 
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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)
 
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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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Every man is not ambitious, or courteous, or passionate; but every man has pride enough in his composition to feel and resent the least slight and contempt. Remember, therefore, most carefully to conceal your contempt, however just, wherever you would not make an implacable enemy. Men are much more unwilling to have their weaknesses and their imperfections known, than their crimes; and if you hint to a man that you think him silly, ignorant, or even ill-bred, or awkward, he will hate you more and longer, than if you tell him plainly, that you think him a rogue.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son, #161 (5 Sep 1748)
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What stronger breastplate than a heart untainted?
Thrice is he armed that hath his quarrel just,
And he but naked, though locked up in steel,
Whose conscience with injustice is corrupted.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Henry VI, Part 2, Act 3, sc. 2, l. 240ff [Henry] (1591)
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See Ward.
 
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We are more apt to persecute the unfortunates than the scoundrels; the scoundrels may retaliate.

Paul Eldridge (1888-1982) American educator, novelist, poet
Maxims for a Modern Man, #952 (1965)
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Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) American writer, philosopher, longshoreman
The Passionate State of Mind, Aphorism 241 (1955)
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It has often been said that power corrupts. But it is perhaps equally important to realize that weakness, too, corrupts. Power corrupts the few, while weakness corrupts the many. Hatred, malice, rudeness, intolerance, and suspicion are the faults of weakness. The resentment of the weak does not spring from any injustice done to them but from the sense of inadequacy and impotence. They hate not wickedness but weakness. When it is their power to do so, the weak destroy weakness wherever they see it.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) American writer, philosopher, longshoreman
The Passionate State of Mind, Aphorism 41 (1955)
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Our very defects are … shadows of our virtues.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1831, undated)
 
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