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  • Cruelty, like every other vice, requires no motive outside itself; it only requires opportunity.

    • George Eliot,
    • "Janet's Repentance," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • What I do not know and cannot even hope to understand before I die is why human beings are willfully, coldly, matter-of-factly cruel to each other ... What nerve has atrophied in the torturer, or worse is sensually moved?

  • Sadistic literature is not only inhumane. It is anti-human.

  • Behavior of such cunning cruelty that only a human being could have thought of or contrived it we call 'inhuman,' revealing thus some pathetic ideal standard for our species that survives all betrayals.

    • Rose Macaulay,
    • "On Thinking Well of Ourselves," A Casual Commentary ()
  • Cruelty was the devil, and most people were, in one way or another, cruel. Tyranny, suppression, persecution, torture, slavery, war, neglect — all were cruel. The world was acid and sour with hate, fat with greed, yellow with the triumph of the strong and the rich.

  • When kindness has left people, even for a few moments, we become afraid of them, as if their reason had left them.

  • ... imagination is the first faculty wanting in those that do harm to their kind ...

  • Experience has taught me that the only cruelties people condemn are those with which they do not happen to be familiar.

  • Cruelty, I truly believe, is the one and only sin.

  • A hurtful act is the transference to others of the degradation which we bear in ourselves.

  • ... cruelty is the only thing that strikes me as completely unforgivable. The unpardonable sin.

  • It is very difficult for people to believe the simple fact that every persecutor was once a victim. Yet it should be very obvious that someone who was allowed to feel free and strong from childhood does not have the need to humiliate another person.

    • Alice Miller,
    • "Unintentional Cruelty Hurts, Too," For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence ()
  • I said to God, 'What are they doing?' / God said, 'Making pitfalls into which their fellows may sink.' / I said to God, 'Why do they do it?' / God said, 'Because each thinks that when his brother falls he will rise.'

  • When one is innocent of pain, of the havoc it can wreak, one is never cruel. Cruelty is born of pain, of a need to hurt in turn.

  • It seems to me that liberal and humane people, of whom there are many among us, would, if they were asked to rank the vices, put cruelty first. Intuitively they would choose cruelty as the worst thing we do.

  • A thousand kindnesses do not make up for a thousand blows.

    • Louise Bogan,
    • c. 1935, in Ruth Limmer, ed., Journey Around My Room ()
  • Cruelty is contagious in uncivilized communities.

  • When we think of cruelty, we must try to remember the stupidity, the envy, the frustration from which it has arisen.

  • Now I say that with cruelty and oppression it is everybody's business to interfere when they see it ...

  • Whenever people say, 'We mustn't be sentimental,' you can take it they are about to do something cruel. And if they add, 'We must be realistic,' they mean they are going to make money out of it.