Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Motives

"Pure motives do not insure perfect results." - Christian Nestell Bovee

"In general, we do well to let an opponent’s motives alone. We are seldom just to them. Our own motives on such occasions are often worse than those we assail." - William Ellery Channing

"If you try to subdue your selfish motives - anger and so forth - and develop more kindness and compassion for others, ultimately you yourself will benefit more than you would otherwise. So sometimes I say that the wise selfish person should practice this way. Foolish selfish people are always thinking of themselves, and the result is negative. Wise selfish people think of others, help others as much as they can, and the result is that they too receive benefit." -

"We must not inquire too curiously into motives. They are apt to become feeble in the utterance." - George Eliot, pen name of Mary Ann or Marian Evans

"Contempt of others is the truest symptom of a base and bad heart, while it suggests itself to the mean and the vile, and tickles their little fancy on every occasion, it never enters the great and good mind but on the strongest motives; nor is it then a welcome guest - affording only an uneasy sensation, and bringing always with it a mixture of concern and compassion." - Henry Fielding

"The biggest gap in the world is the gap between the justice of a cause and the motives of the people pushing it." - John P. Grier

"It is universally acknowledged that there is a great uniformity among the actions of men, in all nations and ages, and that human nature remains still the same, in its principles and operations. The same motives always produce the same actions: the same events follow the same causes. Ambition, avarice, self-love, vanity, friendship, generosity, public spirit: these passions, mixed in various degrees, and distributed through society, have been from the beginning of the world, and still are, the source of all the actions and enterprises, which have ever been observed among mankind." - David Hume

"Bad passions become more odious in proportion as the motives to them are weakened; and gratuitous vice cannot be too indignantly exposed to reprehension. No man ever arrived suddenly at the summit of vice." - Juvenal, fully Decimus Junius Juvenalis NULL

"Good and evil, reward and punishment, are the only motives to a rational creature: these are the spur and reins whereby all mankind are set on work, and guided." - John Locke

"Get to know two things about a man - how he earns his money and how he spends it - and you have a clue to his character, for you have a searchlight that shows up the inmost recesses of his soul. You know all you need to know about his standards, his motives, his driving desires, his real religion." - Robert J. McCracken, D.D.

"We judge ourselves by our motives and others by their actions." - Dwight Whitney Morrow

"All truth is safe and nothing else is safe, and he who keeps back the truth, or withholds it from men, from motives of expediency, is either a coward or a criminal or both." - Prentice Mulford

"Love transcends normal needs and motives, revealing a unity among people and things more fundamental than any differences between them. It is its own reward." - Michael Murphy

"The time which passes over our heads so imperceptibly makes the same gradual change in habits, manners and character as in personal appearance. At the revolution of every five years we find ourselves another and yet the same - there is a change of views and no less of the light in which we regard them; a change of motives as well as of action." -

"The four great motives which move men to social activity are hunger, love, vanity, and fear of superior powers. If we search out the causes which have moved men to war we find them under each of these motives or interests." - William Graham Sumner

"Man’s actions proceed from his innate character and the motives acting upon him. What is conscience and the perception of right and wrong in actions that follows from the consciousness of freedom? That is a question for ethics." -

"With the exception of the instinct of self-preservation, the propensity for emulation is probably the strongest and most alert and persistent of the economic motives proper." - Thorstein Veblen, fully Thorstein Bunde Veblen, born Torsten Bunde Veblen

"In our thinking we must preserve an open and enquiring mind, an ability to see things through the eyes of our opponents, a skill for understanding the motives and thoughts of those whom we oppose. Yet we must act in the light of the best knowledge and reason available to us at the moment." - Carleton Washburne

"Knowledge does not comprise all which is contained in the large term of education. The feelings are to be disciplined; the passions are to be restrained; true and worthy motives are to be inspired; a profound religious feeling is to be instilled, and pure morality inculcated under all circumstances. All this is comprised in education." - Daniel Webster

"Motives are better than actions. Men drift into crime. Of evil they do more than they contemplate, and of good they contemplate more than they do." - Christian Nestell Bovee

"Marriage is not a finished affair. No matter to what age you live, love must be continuously consolidated. Being considerate, thoughtful and respectful without ulterior motives is the key to a satisfactory marriage." - Chinese Family Planning Center Pamphlet NULL

"The more horrible a depersonalized scientific mass war becomes, the more necessary it is to find universal ideal motives to justify it." - John Dewey

"Keep clear of personalities in conversation. Talk of things, objects, thoughts. The smallest minds occupy themselves with persons. Do not needlessly report ill of others. As far as possible, dwell on the good side of human beings. There are family boards where a constant process of depreciating, assigning motives, and cutting up character goes forward. They are not pleasant places. One who is healthy does not wish to dine at a dissecting table. There is evil enough in man, God knows. But it is not the mission of every young man and woman to detail and report it all. Keep the atmosphere as pure as possible, and fragrant with gentleness and charity." - John Hall

"Jewish ethics, with its emphasis on the motives of the heart and its concern for the actions of men, has shown itself able to preserve the tension between the inner and the outer." -

"Given a man full of faith, you will have a man tenacious in purpose, absorbed in one grand object, simple in his motives, in whom selfishness has been driven out by the power of a mightier love, and indolence stirred into unwearied energy." - Alexander Maclaren

"One of the greatest failures of our contemporary training of teachers is that they become mere technicians... They do not learn the beliefs and motives and values for the sake of which the classroom exists." - Alexander Meiklejohn

"People do not always understand the motives of sublime conduct, and when they are astonished they are very apt to think they ought to be alarmed. The truth is none are fit judges of greatness but those who are capable of it." - Jane Porter

"The only treaties that ought to count are those which would effect a settlement between ulterior motives." - Paul Valéry, fully Ambroise-Paul-Toussaint-Jules Valéry

"Knowledge does not comprise all which is contained in the large term of education. The feelings are to be disciplined, the passions are to be restrained; true and worthy motives are to be inspired; a profound religious feeling is to be instilled, and pure morality inculcated under all circumstances. All this is comprised in education." - Daniel Webster

"Transactional leaders approach followers with an eye to exchanging one thing for another: jobs for votes, or subsidies for campaign contributions… The transforming leader looks for potential motives in followers, seeks to satisfy higher needs, and engages the full person of the follower. The result of transforming leadership is a relationship of mutual stimulation and elevation that converts followers into leaders and may convert leaders into moral agents." - James MacGregor Burns

"Prayer is not a vain attempt to change God’s will: it is a filial desire to learn God’s will and share it. Prayer is not a substitute for work: it is the secret spring and indispensable ally of all true work – the clarifying of work’s goal, the purifying of its motives, and the renewing of its zeal." - George Arthur Buttrick

"It is not enough to teach a man a specialty. Through it he may become a kind of useful machine but not a harmoniously developed personality. It is essential that the student acquire an understanding of and a lively feeling for values. He must acquire a vivid sense of the beautiful and the morally good. Otherwise, he – with his specialized knowledge – more closely resembles a well-trained dog than a harmoniously developed person. He must learn to understand the motives of human beings, their illusions, and their sufferings in order to acquire a proper relationship to individual fellow-men and to the community." - Albert Einstein

"The principle of competition appears to be nothing more than a partially conventionalized embodiment of primeval selfishness... the supremacy of the motive of self-interest... The Christian conscience can be satisfied with nothing less than the complete substitution of motives of mutual helpfulness and goodwill for the motive of private gain." - Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America NULL

"Our society has progressed largely because of our creativity and inquisitiveness – and because we’re competitive. We’re driven by the desire to develop products and services which are more ingenious than what others have put forth. Competition is inherently good, but when it is tainted with excess greed or negative motives, there can be harmful results. How we compete is very important to our Souls." - Tom Gregory

"There’s a moment when the choice to act moves beyond a discussion of motives, for even an awareness of our own motives can become a form of necessity that lets our responsibility off the hook. And the moment of faith is a moment when no part of us is excused. With no ifs, no buts, no conditions, no escape clauses, all we are is challenged to rise to the choice and shoulder the responsibility for our answer." - Os Guiness

"A man is free in proportion as his perceptions and his actions express his personality in spite of the variety of forms which perceptions and motives take." -

"Our whole universe is a universe of perceived phenomena in which all that is perceived embodies part of what is ourselves. A person and all his perceived world, thought, motives, and acts, are active manifestations of personality… personality represents a constant struggle to realize itself. This is why for personality there is always a now’ entering into the meaning of the past and the nature of the future." -

"In spiritual work, there is no tangible worldly gain to be acquired, but there is instead an inner reward of pleasure, satisfaction, and even joy. Goals replace gains as motives. There is a greater freedom from living on the exciting knife edge of the moment than being a prisoner of the past or having expectations of the future." - David R. Hawkins, fully David Ramon Hawkins

"The truly religious man is always more concerned about what God will do in him that what He will do to him; in this intense desire for purification of his motives he almost wishes that heaven and hell were blotted out, that he might serve God for Himself alone." - William Ralph Inge

"I believe in immortality of the soul because I have within me immortal longings. I believe that the state we enter after death is wrought of our own motives, thoughts, and deeds... I carry a magic light in my heart. Faith, the spiritual strong searchlight, illumines the way, and although sinister doubts lurk in the shadow, I walk unafraid towards the Enchanted Wood where the foliage is always green, where joy abides, where nightingales nest and sing, and where life and death are one in the Presence of the Lord." - Helen Keller. aka Helen Adams Keller

"It is loyalty to great ends, even though forced to combine the small and opposing motives of selfish men to accomplish them; it is the anchored cling to solid principles of duty and action, which knows how to swing with the tide, but is never carried away by it – that we demand in public men, and not sameness of policy, or a conscientious persistency in what is impracticable." - James Russell Lowell

"Even honorable motives of action, unless directed by judgment, are followed by disastrous results." - Otho, fully Marcus Salvius Otho Caesar Augustus NULL

"We should often blush at our noblest deeds if the world were to see all their underlying motives." -

"Hunger love, vanity, and fear. There are four great motives of human action." - William Graham Sumner

"Men are more accountable for their motives, than for anything else; and primarily, morality consists in the motives, that is in the affections." - Archibald Alexander

"Music... stand quite alone. It is cut off from all the other arts... It does not express a particular and definite joy, sorrow, anguish, horror, delight, or mood of peace, but joy, sorrow, anguish, horror, delight, peace of mind themselves, in the abstract, in their essential nature, without accessories, and therefore without their customary motives. Yet it enables us to grasp and share them fully in this quintessence." - Arthur Schopenhauer

"The true motives of our actions, like the real pipes of an organ, are usually concealed; but the gilded and hollow pretext is pompously placed in the front for show." - Charles Caleb Colton

"There is no cruelty so inexorable and unrelenting as that which proceeds from a bigoted and presumptuous supposition of doing service to God. The victim of the fanatical persecutor will find that the stronger the motives he can urge for mercy are, the weaker will be his chance for obtaining it, for the merit of his destruction will be supposed to rise in value in proportion as it is effected at the expense of every feeling both of justice and of humanity." - Charles Caleb Colton

"We are surrounded by motives to piety and devotion, if we would but mind them... When we see good men rewarded, it confirms our hope; and when evil men are punished, it excites our fear." - Daniel Wilson