Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Selfishness

"It is indifference which is the cause of most of our unhappiness. Indifference to religion, to the happiness of others, and to the precious gift of freedom, and the wide liberty that is the inheritance of all in a free land. Are we our "Brother's Keeper"? We certainly are! If we had no regard for others' feelings or fortune, we would grow cold and indifferent to life itself. Bound up with selfishness, we could not hope for the success that could easily be ours." - George Matthew Adams

"Upon every hand we meet with those who have some secret resentment that is ever being nurtured within their hearts. They resent the success, or happiness of some one whom they think is less deserving than they are. They resent the just recognition that comes to others from work and long effort to excel. Or, they may resent being born poor - or resent the fact that they were even born!... Strive to excel, strive to achieve, where others have failed, and you will find no space within your mind to lodge resentment. Resentment is the child of selfishness, foolish envy, and inactivity... Our life upon this earth is too valuable for resentment of any kind. There is so much to do, so much to learn - so little time in which to live and work it all out." - George Matthew Adams

"The strongest barrier to faith is selfishness." - Joseph L. Baron

"Covetousness is a sort of mental gluttony, not confined to money, but craving honor, and feeding on selfishness." -

"The failure of our modern world, with its moral and ethical collapse, may be traced directly to our spiritual ignorance and moral disobedience. The ethical conditions under which we live are disgracefully unsanitary. It is futile to expect peace and goodwill on earth while our homes are infested with the germs of selfishness, irreverence and lust. The world-wide epidemic of hatred, cruelty, murder and war is the inevitable result of our moral and spiritual disobedience. We cannot break the laws of the universe with impunity." - Allen E. Claxton

"Life in this world is a very important reality, but it is not the ultimate reality... True growth in this world always calls for a dying to my own sinfulness, individualism and selfishness so that I might come closer to my true self in relationship to all others and to God. Thus, in the end, life and death are not diametrically opposed. Life involves a dying and dying is a way of life." - Charles Curran

"I am absolutely convinced that no wealth in the world can help humanity forward, even in the hands of the most devoted worker in this cause. The example of great and pure personages is the only thing that can lead us to fine ideas and noble deeds. Money only appeals to selfishness and always irresistibly tempts its owners to abuse it." - Albert Einstein

"Selfishness can be a virtue. Selfishness is essential to survival, and without survival we cannot protect those whom we love more than ourselves." -

"If we look only to self even in spiritual things, it is still selfishness, though possibly on a somewhat higher plane than before." -

"The force of selfishness is as inevitable and as calculable as the force of gravitation." -

"In the highest selflessness lies the greatest power. Ultimately, neglect of duty is due to selfishness. Because of selfishness we omit the good and commit the bad. Selfishness makes us shrink from the fulfillment of our life-task. The humble person with integrity has no trace of selfishness, his self-sacrifice is not obstructed by egotism. He is always ready to use the last spark of his energy and the last fiber of his being in doing good. He feels he has been granted life only to use his every breath for the energetic fulfillment of the good. His entire sojourn on earth, regardless of the length of its duration, is true living. When he has departed from the world, one may say of him: He was alive." - Samson Raphael Hirsch

"Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment. Life's most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?" - Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Manifest plainness, embrace simplicity, reduce selfishness, have few desires." -

"Moaning over what cannot be helped is a confession of futility and fear, of emotional stagnation - in fact, of selfishness and cowardice. The best way to "snap out of it" is to stop thinking about yourself, and start thinking about other people. You can lighten your own load by doing something for someone else. By the simple device of doing an outward, unselfish act today, you can make the past recede. The present and future will again take on their true challenge and perspective." - Frederick Loomis, fully Sir Frederick Oscar Warren Loomis

"Selfishness is a vice utterly at variance with the happiness of him who harbors it, and as such, condemned by self-love." - James Mackintosh, fully Sir James Mackintosh

"We hear in these days a great deal respecting rights - the rights of labor, the rights of property, and the rights of man. Rights are grand things, divine things in this world of God’s; but the way in which we expound these rights, alas! seems to me to be the very incarnation of selfishness. I can see nothing very noble in a man who is forever going about calling for his own rights. Alas! alas! for the man who feels nothing more grand in this wondrous, divine world than his own rights." -

"Selfishness, not love, is the actuating motive of the gallant." - Madame Roland, Jeanne Manon Philon, born Marie-Jeanne Phlipon

"The quintessence of every passion is selfishness." - Moritz Saphir, fully Moritz Gottlieb Saphir, born Moses Saphir

"Those who are most disinterested, and have the least of selfishness, have best materials for being happy." - Lydia Sigourney, fully Lydia Huntley Sigourney, née Lydia Howard Huntley

"Men err from selfishness, women because they are weak." -

"This span of life was lent for lofty duties, not for selfishness, not to be whiled away in aimless dreams, but to improve ourselves and improve mankind." - Aubrey de Vere, fully Aubrey Albericus de Vere NULL

"Peace comes to us through love, understanding of our fellow men, faith. Peace does not include selfishness nor indifference. Peace is never wrapped at a counter for a price. It is earned by giving of ourselves." - Annette A Victorin

"The enemy is single selfishness and compulsive greed... I think the enemy comes to us with the face of innocence and says to us: “I am your friend.”" - Thomas Wolfe, fully Thomas Clayton Wolfe

"I think the enemy is here before us... I think the enemy is simple selfishness and compulsive greed... I think he stole our earth from us, destroyed our wealth, and ravaged and despoiled our home land." - Thomas Wolfe, fully Thomas Clayton Wolfe

"Though selfishness hath defiled the whole man, yet sensual pleasure is the chief part of its interest, and therefore by the senses it commonly works, and these are the doors and the windows by which iniquity entereth the soul." - Richard Baxter

"Competition, which is the instinct of selfishness, is another word for dissipation of energy, while combination is the secret of efficient production." - Edward Bellamy

"Grand and manifold as were its phases, there is yet no difficulty in understanding the character of Washington. He was no Veiled Prophet. He never acted a part. Simple, natural, and unaffected, his life lies before us - a fair and open manuscript. He disdained the arts which wrap power in mystery in order to magnify it. He practiced the profound diplomacy of truthful speech - the consummate tact of direct attention. Looking ever to the All-Wise Disposer of events, he relied on that Providence which helps men by giving them high hearts and hopes to help themselves with the means which their Creator has put at their service. There was no infirmity in his conduct over which charity must fling its veil; no taint of selfishness from which purity averts her gaze; no dark recess of intrigue that must be lit up with colored panegyric; no subterranean passage to be trod in trembling, lest there be stirred the ghost of a buried crime." - John W. Daniel, fully John Warwick Daniel

"This span of life was lent for lofty duties; not for selfishness; not to be whiled away in aimless dreams, but to improve ourselves and serve mankind." -

"Mighty is the force of motherhood! It transforms all things by its vital heat; it turns timidity into fierce courage, and dreadless defiance into tremulous submission; it turns thoughtlessness into foresight, and yet stills all anxiety into calm content; it makes selfishness become self-denial, and gives even to hard vanity the glance of admiring love." - George Eliot, pen name of Mary Ann or Marian Evans

"If there is to be peace in the world, peace must be established first in every human heart. All the trouble in the world is due to selfishness. It always has been and always will be." - Joseph Francis Flannelly

"Selfishness does not grow in intensity as we move downward in society from class to class." - William Ewart Gladstone

"Politicians... rise predominantly from... the "lower middle class"; most are self-made men... ; most depend on their political jobs for their livelihood and most have little time, inclination, or opportunity for adult education; hence the dominating qualities of so many are greed, vulgarity, attention to special interest, avarice, and selfishness." - John Gunther

"How much that the world calls selfishness is only generosity with narrow walls, a too exclusive solicitude to maintain a wife in luxury, or make one’s children rich." - Thomas Wentworth Higginson

"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

"Selfishness, if but reasonably tempered with wisdom, is not such an evil trait." - Giovani Ruffini

"To feel oppressed by obligation is only to prove that we are incapable of a proper sentiment of gratitude. To receive favors from the unworthy is to admit that our selfishness is superior to our pride." - William Gilmore Simms

"National progress is the sum of individual industry, energy, and uprightness, as national decay is of individual idleness, selfishness, and vice." - Samuel Smiles

"Every moral act of love, of mercy, and of scarifice brings to pass the end of the world where hatred, cruelty, and selfishness reign supreme." - Nikolai Berdyaev, fully Nikolai Alexandrovich Berdyaev, also spelled Nichlas Berdiaev

"History tells us that the pendulum of time is sweeping to extremes of subjectivism, to cults of selfishness and savage irresponsibility. We must bring it back to balance by taking up the burdens of mankind as our own, with an entirely new vision and confidence. And we must do this perhaps as a condition for continued existence itself." - Philip Berrigan

"Selfishness is the deepest root of all unhappiness... It feeds an insatiable hunger that first eats up everything belonging to others and then causes a creature to devour itself." - Hélder Câmara, fully Dom Hélder Pessoa Câmara

"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

"Spiritual progress must be slow as long as we are worried, frightened, resentful, sick, or discouraged – and those things can be overcome only through prayer. It is a duty and a joy to help others, wisely, and to leave the world a better place than we found it – and we can do that only through prayer. The more we pray for ourselves the more power will our prayers have for any other purpose whatsoever; so we see that praying for ourselves is the reverse of selfishness – it is truly glorifying God." - Emmet Fox

"The historical Jesus has a different category of sins from that of the Old Testament or of Paul or of ecclesiastical writers after him. The sins which occupied the attention of Jesus were hypocrisy, wordliness, intolerance, and selfishness. The sins which occupy the principal attention of the Church… are impurity, murder, the drinking of alcohol, swearing, the neglect of the Church’s services and ordinances." - Robert Keable

"Every vocation is ultimately founded on the salutary selfishness by which an individual, despite the whole world, seeks to save his own immortal soul." -

"We believe in optimism rather than pessimism, hope rather than despair, learning in the place of dogma, truth instead of ignorance, joy rather than guild or sin, tolerance in the place of fear, love instead of hatred, compassion over selfishness, beauty instead of ugliness and reason rather than blind faith or irrationality." - Patroclus or Patroklos NULL

"In the highest love between man and woman, or parent and child, as the person reaches the ultimates of strength, self-esteem, or individuality, so also does he simultaneously merge with the other, lose self-consciousness, and more or less transcend selfishness. The same can happen in the creative moment, in the profound aesthetic experience, in the insight experience…and others which I have generalized as peak experiences." - Abraham Harold Maslow

"Prayer stamps with its indelible mark our actions and demeanor. A tranquility of bearing, a facial and bodily repose are observed in those whose inner lives are thus enriched. Within the depths of consciousness a flame kindles. And man sees himself. He discovers his selfishness, his silly pride, his fear, his greeds, his blunder. He develops a sense of moral obligation, intellectual humility. Thus begins a journey of the soul toward the realm of grace." - Alexis Carrel

"Love is the doorway thru which the human soul passes from selfishness to service and from solitude to kinship with all mankind." - Author Unknown NULL

"Love is the sunshine of the soul. Without it we get hard and sour and we never grow into what we could be. Love sweetens the bitterness of experience and softens the core of selfishness that is inherent in human nature." - Author Unknown NULL

"If it is true that what I mean by “selfishness” is not what is meant conventionally, then this is one of the worst indictments of altruism: it means that altruism permits no concept of a self-respecting, self-supporting man - a man who supports his life by his own effort and neither sacrifices himself nor others. It means that altruism permits no view of men except as sacrificial animals and profiteers-on-sacrifice, as victims and parasites - that it permits no concept of a benevolent coexistence among men - that it permits no concept of justice." - Ayn Rand, born Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum