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Good and Evil

  • There is much said about the wickedness of doing evil that good may come. Alas! there is such a thing as doing good that evil may come.

  • ... as I get older there is nothing more constantly astonishing to me than the goodness of the Bad; — unless it is the badness of the Good.

  • We do good by ourselves, but we seldom do wrong alone.

  • It is not badness, it is the absence of goodness, which, in Art as in Life, is so depressing.

  • ... badness has such energy / it can drive the goodness from your soul / and leave you bad, even if you've practiced / goodness, and have been walking down the road / to grace all your life.

  • ... the most painful moral struggles are not those between good and evil, but between the good and the lesser good.

  • In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit.

  • The sick-room becomes the scene of intense convictions; and among these, none, it seems to me, is more distinct and powerful than that of the permanent nature of good, and the transient nature of evil.

  • ... we do know now, all of us, that the most appalling cruelties are committed by apparently virtuous governments in expectation of a great good to come, never learning that the evil done now is the sure destroyer of the expected good.

  • ... the bad is more easily perceived than the good. A fresh lobster does not give such pleasure to the consumer as a stale one will give him pain.

  • Is it really so difficult to tell a good action from a bad one? I think one usually knows right away or a moment afterward, in a horrid flash of regret.

  • ... it is the modern nature of goodness to exert itself quietly, while a few characters of the opposite cast seem, by the rumor of their exploits, to fill the world; and by their noise to multiply their numbers.

    • Hannah More,
    • introduction, Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education ()
  • There are new words now that excuse everybody. Give me the good old days of heroes and villains. The people you can bravo or hiss. There was a truth to them that all the slick credulity of today cannot touch.

  • ... vice is always in the active, virtue often in the passive.

  • If one would discern the centers of dominance in any society, one need only look to its definitions of 'virtue' and 'vice' or 'legal' and 'criminal,' for in the strength to set standards resides the strength to maintain control.

  • We are not so sure anything is evil or good any more. But when you are a child, you know. The ogre and the princess have their right place. You make no excuses for the ogre. You do not say that, after all, the ogre was raised in a bad environment; that, after all, his mother spoiled him; that, after all, he has his good side. Evil is evil and good is good ...

  • ... doing evil in the cause of good ... is one of life's most exquisite pleasures. One has all the enjoyment of getting up to mischief, and none of the guilt.

  • ... good and evil travel on the same road, but they leave different impressions.

    • Madame de Sévigné,
    • 1675, Letters of Madame de Sévigné to Her Daughter and Her Friends, vol. 3 ()
  • I sincerely believe that we not only have the right to know what is good and what is evil; we have the duty to acquire that knowledge if we hope to assume responsibility for our own lives and those of our children. Only by knowing the truth can we be set free.

  • In his view there were good people and bad people. The good people worked hard and told the truth. The bad people stole from the good people and then lied about it.

  • Good must triumph over evil. It usually does in life and in any case it's bad for young people to believe it doesn't.

  • Vice / Is nice / But a little virtue / Won't hurt you.

  • In walking through the world there is a choice for a man to make. He can choose the fair and open path, the path which sound ethics, sound democracy, and the common law prescribe, or choose the secret way by which he can get the better of his fellow man.

  • The detective and his criminal wear versions of the same mask.

  • What's devil to some is good to some others.

  • We may draw good out of evil: we must not do evil, that good may come.

  • Good and evil are only high and low / on one string of god's violin.

  • I am still sure of absolute wrong but much less certain of absolute right.

    • Jill Tweedie,
    • "Strange Places," in Michelene Wandor, ed., On Gender and Writing ()
  • Religion holds a man back from the path, prevents his stepping forward, for various very plain reasons. First, it makes the vital mistake of distinguishing between good and evil.

  • Good and evil, as we term them, are not antagonistic; they are ever found hand in hand. Humanity has never achieved a single conquest without the aid of both. Indeed how can she? What adds to moral strength, but a grappling with temptation?

    • Sarah M. Grimké,
    • "The Education of Women" (c. 1852), in Elizabeth Ann Bartlett, ed., Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and Other Essays ()
  • ... whoever gives the common people food to eat is a good person whoever lets the common people starve is a bad person.

  • There are few things more disturbing than to find, in somebody we detest, a moral quality which seems to us demonstrably superior to anything we ourselves possess. It augurs not merely an unfairness on the part of creation, but a lack of artistic judgement. ... Sainthood is acceptable only in saints.

  • There are times when it would seem as if God fished with a line, and the devil with a net.

  • On the whole, mental archaeology was a sordid digging proposition. The evil men did endured, the good was infinitely more ephemeral. You could generally find out whether a man had been a horse-thief, or an embezzler or a wife-beater, if you worked hard enough, but acts of kindness, of charity, a gay spirit, vanished without leaving a trace.

  • You can't be afraid to do good in case evil results.

  • ... good is too often allied with vulnerability and evil with power.

  • Pleasure and pain, the good and the bad, are so intermixed that we can not shun the one without depriving ourselves of the other.

  • Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.

  • Goodness is equally hateful to the wicked, as vice is to the virtuous.