Character Quotes

Most all of these came from


Abigail Van Buren, “The best index to a person's character is (a) how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and (b) how he treats people who can't fight back.”

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), “Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”

__, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.”

__, “Tact is the ability to describe others as they see themselves.”

__, “We should be too big to take offense and too noble to give it.”

__, “No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent.”

Aeschylus (525-456 B.C.), “It is in the character of very few men to honor without envy a friend who has prospered.”

Albert Einstein (1879-1955), “Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.”

Allison Ling, “Bluntness is a virtue.”

Anne Frank, “Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”

Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), “Character is that which reveals moral purpose, exposing the class of things a man chooses or avoids.”

__, “The greatest virtues are those which are most useful to other persons.”

__, “To enjoy the things we ought and to hate the things we ought has the greatest bearing on excellence of character.”

Barbara Jordan, “The imperative is to define what is right and do it.”

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), “There never was a good knife made of bad steel.”

Booker T. Washington (1856-1915), “Character is power.”

__, “Character, not circumstances, makes the man.”

Chinese Proverb, “Over a long distance, you learn about the strength of your horse; over a long time, you learn about the character of your friend.”

__, “Jade requires chiseling before becoming a gem.”

__, “No one knows a son better than the father.”

Cicero (106-43 BC), “Everyone has the obligation to ponder well his own specific traits of character. He must also regulate them adequately and not wonder whether someone else’s traits might suit him better. The more definitely his own a man’s character is, the better it fits him.”

Clarence Darrow (1857-1938), “With all their faults, trade unions have done more for humanity than any other organization of men that ever existed. They have done more for decency, for honesty, for education, for the betterment of the race, for the developing of character in men, than any other association of men.”

Confucius (551 BC - 479 BC), “Without an acquaintance with the rules of propriety, it is impossible for the character to be established.”

D. L. Moody (1837-1899), “Character is what you are in the dark.”

Earl Warren (1891-1974), “The man of character, sensitive to the meaning of what he is doing, will know how to discover the ethical paths in the maze of possible behavior.”

Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915), “Many a man’s reputation would not know his character if they met on the street.”

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884 – 1962), “People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built.” My Day

__, “Character building begins in our infancy, and continues until death.”

Elihu Burritt, “Forming characters! Whose? Our own or others? Both. And in that momentous fact lies the peril and Responsibility of our existence. “

Elmer G. Letterman, “Personality can open doors, but only character can keep them open.”

Francis Thompson (1859 – 1907), “In attempts to improve your character, know what is in your power and what is beyond it.”

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742 – 1799) “A person reveals his character by nothing so clearly as the joke he resents.”

George Santayana (1863 – 1952), “Our character ... is an omen of our destiny, and the more integrity we have and keep, the simpler and nobler that destiny is likely to be.”

George W. Bush, “Our Founding Fathers understood that our country would survive and flourish if our Nation was committed to good character and an unyielding dedication to liberty and justice for all.”

__, “The future success of our Nation depends on our children's ability to understand the difference between right and wrong and to have the strength of character to make the right choices. To help them reach their full potential and live with integrity and pride, we must teach our children to be kind, responsible, honest, and self-disciplined. These important values are first learned in the family, but all of our citizens have an obligation to support parents in the character education of our children”: National Character Counts Week, 2002, a Presidential Proclamation.

George Washington (1732-1799), “Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder.”

__, “I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.”

__, “Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.”

H. Jackson Brown Jr., “Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking.”

Helen Keller (1880–1968), “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), “Be not simply good; be good for something.” Walden

__, “How can we expect a harvest of thought who have not had a seedtime of character?”

Heraclitus (540-480 B.C.), “A man’s character is his fate.” On the Universe

Hermann Hesse (1877–1962), “People with courage and character always seem sinister to the rest.”

Isabelle Eberhardt, “The farther behind I leave the past, the closer I am to forging my own character.”

Jacqueline Bisset, “Character contributes to beauty. It fortifies a woman as her youth fades.”

James A. Froude (1818–1894), “You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one.”

James Russell Lowell, “Reputation is only a candle, of wavering and uncertain flame, and easily blown out, but it is the light by which the world looks for and finds merit.”

Japanese Proverb, “When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.”

Joan Didion, “Character—the willingness to accept Responsibility for one's own life—is the source from which self respect springs.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832), “Men show their characters in nothing more clearly than in what they think laughable.”

John Holt, “The true test of character is not how much we know how to do, but how we behave when we don’t know what to do.”

Ken Keys, “A loving person lives in a loving world. A hostile person lives in a hostile world. Everyone you meet is your mirror.”

Lois McMaster Bujold, “I take it as a man's duty to restrain himself.” Ethan of Athos, 1986

Malcolm Stevenson Forbes, “To measure the man, measure his heart.”

Marcel Marceau, “It’s good to shut up sometimes.”

Margaret Chase Smith, “Moral cowardice that keeps us from speaking our minds is as dangerous to this country as irresponsible talk. The right way is not always the popular and easy way. Standing for right when it is unpopular is a true test of moral character.”

Marie Henri Beyle (1783-1842), “One can acquire everything in solitude—except character.”

Marie Leneru, “To succeed is nothing, it’s an accident. But to feel no doubts about oneself is something very different: it is character.” Oprah Magazine, May 2004

Samuel L. Clemens, aka, Mark Twain (1835-1910), “To arrive at a just estimate of a renowned man’s character one must judge it by the standards of his time, not ours.”

Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968), “I look forward confidently to the day when all who work for a living will be one with no thought to their separateness as Negroes, Jews, Italians or any other distinctions. This will be the day when we bring into full realization the American dream—a dream yet unfulfilled. A dream of equality of opportunity, of privilege and property widely distributed; a dream of a land where men will not take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few; a dream of a land where men will not argue that the color of a man’s skin determines the content of his character; a dream of a nation where all our gifts and resources are held not for ourselves alone, but as instruments of service for the rest of humanity; the dream of a country where every man will respect the dignity and worth of the human personality.”

__, “Intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.”

__, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Menander (342-292 BC), “The character of a man is known from his conversations.”

Nathaniel Emmons, “I could never think well of a man’s intellectual or moral character, if he was habitually unfaithful to his appointments.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (1841–1935), “The character of every act depends upon the circumstances in which it is done.”

Oscar Levant (1906 – 1972), “Underneath this flabby exterior is an enormous lack of character.”

Plutarch (46-119 A.D.), “Character is simply habit long continued.”

Rabbi Zusya, “In the world to come, I shall not be asked, ‘Why were you not Moses?’ I shall be asked, ‘Why were you not Zusya?’”

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), “Character is higher than intellect... A great soul will be strong to live, as well as to think.”

__, “Nature magically suits a man to his fortunes, by making them the fruit of his character.”

__, “People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character.”

__, “A person will worship something, have no doubt about that.… That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming.”

__, “Judge of your natural character by what you do in your dreams.”

__, “Discontent is want of self-reliance; it is infirmity of will.”

__, “Self-command is the main elegance.”

__, “A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.”

__, “Nothing astonishes men so much as common-sense and plain dealing.”

__, “Words are also actions, and actions are a kind of words.”

__, “In every man there is something wherein I may learn of him, and in that I am his pupil.”

__, “The greatest homage we can pay to Truth is to use it.”

Raymond Burr, “Try and live your life the way you wish other people would live theirs.”

Robert Baden-Powell, “An individual step in character training is to put Responsibility on the individual.”

Robert Coles, “Abraham Lincoln did not go to Gettysburg having commissioned a poll to find out what would sell in Gettysburg. There were no people with percentages for him, cautioning him about this group or that group or what they found in exit polls a year earlier. When will we have the courage of Lincoln?”

Rollo May, “There is no authentic inner freedom that does not, sooner or later, also affect and change human history.”

__, “Does not the possibility or the power to do something about the situation at hand confer on one the responsibility to do it?”

Ronald Reagan (1911–2004), “You can tell a lot about a fellow’s character by his way of eating jellybeans.”

Samuel Butler, “The truest characters of ignorance are vanity, and pride and arrogance.”

Samuel Johnson, “It is better to suffer wrong than to do it, and happier to be sometimes cheated than not to trust.”

Stephen Covey, “Our character is basically a composite of our habits. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character.”

Theodore Roosevelt, “Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike.”

Thomas B. Macaulay, “The measure of a man’s real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out.”

Victor Frankl, “What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.”

__, “The last of human freedoms is the ability to one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.”

W. Somerset Maugham, “When you choose your friends, don’t be short-changed by choosing personality over character.”

Walter Anderson, “I am responsible. Although I may not be able to prevent the worst from happening, I am responsible for my attitude toward the inevitable misfortunes that darken life. Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life.”

__, “I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have—life itself.”

William Lamb Melbourne, “Nobody ever did anything very foolish except from some strong principle.”

Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), “If you will think about what you ought to do for other people, your character will take care of itself. Character is a by-product, and any man who devotes himself to its cultivation in his own case will become a selfish prig.”