Benevolence, or good will, are terms indicating a charitable disposition to do good in regard to others, and to act with genuinely compassionate and kind considerations of their needs and desires. It is embraced as a vitally important ethical virtue in most human societies, religions, philosophies and cultures.
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- Alphabetized by author or source:
- Silence will create respect and dignity; justice and fairplay will bring more friends; benevolence and charity will enhance prestige and position; courtesy will draw benevolence; service of mankind will secure leadership and good words will overcome powerful enemies.
- I wish the art of benefiting men had kept pace with the art of destroying them; for though war has become slow, philanthropy has remained hasty. The most melancholy of human reflections, perhaps, is that, on the whole, it is a question whether the, benevolence of mankind does most good or harm. Great good, no doubt, philanthropy does, but then it also does great evil. It augments so much vice, it multiplies so much suffering, it brings to life such great populations to suffer and to be vicious, that it is open to argument whether it be or be not an evil to the world, and this is entirely because excellent people fancy that they can do much by rapid action — that they will most benefit the world when they most relieve their own feelings; that as soon as an evil is seen "something" ought to be done to stay and prevent it.
- Walter Bagehot, in 'Physics and Politics (1869), Ch. 5
- You smile with pomp & rigor, you talk of benevolence & virtue;
I act with benevolence & virtue & get murdered time after time.
- Do you want to see the most beautiful thing I've ever filmed? It was one of those days when it's a minute away from snowing, and there's this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it. And this bag was just, dancing with me, like a little kid beggin' me to play with it — for fifteen minutes. And that's the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know that there was no reason to be afraid, ever. Video's a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember — I need to remember. Sometimes, there's so much beauty in the world — I feel like I can't take it, like my heart is just going to cave in.
- Omnipotent-benevolent simply means that God is all-powerful and well-meaning.
- You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.
- It is of no consequence what the principles of any party, or what their pretensions, are; the spirit which actuates all parties is the same; the spirit of ambition, of self-interest, of oppression, and treachery. This spirit entirely reverses all the principles which a benevolent nature has erected within us; all honesty, all equal justice, and even the ties of natural society, the natural affections.
- Power gradually extirpates from the mind every humane and gentle virtue. Pity, benevolence, friendship, are things almost unknown in high stations.
- Edmund Burke, in A Vindication of Natural Society: or, a View of the Miseries and Evils arising to Mankind from every Species of Artifical Society (1756)
- A man full of warm, speculative benevolence may wish his society otherwise constituted than he finds it, but a good patriot and a true politician always considers how he shall make the most of the existing materials of his country. A disposition to preserve and an ability to improve, taken together, would be my standard of a statesman. Everything else is vulgar in the conception, perilous in the execution.
- Edmund Burke, in Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)
- But deep this truth impress'd my mind-
Thro' all His works abroad,
The heart benevolent and kind
The most resembles God.
- By Robert Burns in Robert Burns; James Currie; Gilbert Burns (1820). The Works of Robert Burns;: With an Account of His Life, and a Criticism of His Writings, : to which are Prefixed, Some Observations on the Character and Condition of the Scottish Peasantry. T. Cadell and W. Davies, ... and A. Constable and Company, Manners and Miller, Fairbairn and Anderson, A. Black, W. and C. Tait, at Edinburgh; and G. Clark, at Aberdeen.. p. 153.
- ...hidden from all but the eye of God, and of rare benevolence, the minister of God.
- The paternal and filial duties discipline the heart and prepare it for the love of all mankind. The intensity of private attachment encourages, not prevents, universal benevolence.
- The administration of government lies in getting proper men. Such men are to be got by means of the ruler's own character. That character is to be cultivated by his treading in the ways of duty. And the treading those ways of duty is to be cultivated by the cherishing of benevolence.
- Confucius, in The Doctrine of the Mean
- When it comes to giving some people stop at nothing.
- Danish proverb quoted in The Speaker's Quote Book: Over 5,000 Illustrations and Quotations for All Occasions. Kregel Academic. 2009. p. 211. ISBN 978-0-8254-4166-0.
- "Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"
- We have every reason to conclude that moral action extends over the whole empire of God, that Benevolence exerts its noblest energies among the inhabitants of distant worlds, and that it is chiefly through the medium of reciprocal kindness and affection that ecstatic joy pervades the hearts of celestial intelligences, for we cannot conceive happiness to exist in any region of space, or among any class of intellectual beings, where love to the Creator and to one another is not a prominent and permanent affection.
- By Dr. Thomas in Thomas Dick (1873). The Complete Works of Thomas Dick, LL.D.: Eleven Volumes in Two. Applegate. p. 1.
- Religion, in its purity, is not so much a pursuit as a temper; or rather it is a temper, leading to the pursuit of all that is high and holy. Its foundation is faith; its action, works; its temper, holiness; its aim, obedience to God in improvement of self, and benevolence to men.
- Jonathan Edwards, as quoted in Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895) by Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, p. 494.
- A beneficent person is like a fountain watering the earth and spreading fertility: it is therefore more delightful and more honourable to give than receive.
- By Epicurus in James Lee (M.A.) (1867). Bible illustrations: consisting of apophthegms [ &c.], grouped under Scripture passages, by J. Lee. subscribers' ed. p. 452.
- In strange and uncertain times such as those we are living in, sometimes a reasonable person might despair. But hope is unreasonable and love is greater even than this. May we trust the inexpressible benevolence of the creative impulse.
- There's no room in America for thought control of any kind, no matter how benevolent the objective.
- Jim Garrison, his response to the Warren Commission in an NBC News White Paper (15 July 1967)
- Is the force of self-love abated, or its interest prejudiced, by benevolence? So far from it, that benevolence, though a distinct principle, is extremely serviceable to self-love, and then doth most service when it is least designed…. And then, as to that charming delight which immediately follows the giving joy to another, or relieving his sorrow, and is, when the objects are numerous, and the kindness of importance, really inexpressible, what can this be owing to but a consciousness of a man’s having done something praiseworthy, and expressive of a great soul?
- Henry Grove in The Spectator: With a Biographical and Critical Preface, and Explanatory Notes. Bosworth. 1855. p. 336.
- The impulse of power is to turn every variable into a constant, and give to commands the inexorableness and relentlessness of laws of nature. Hence absolute power corrupts even when exercised for humane purposes. The benevolent despot who sees himself as a shepherd of the people still demands from others the submissiveness of sheep. The taint inherent in absolute power is not its inhumanity but its anti-humanity.
- Eric Hoffer, in The Ordeal of Change (1963), Ch. 15: "The Unnaturalness Of Human Nature"
- Anti-intellectualism ... first got its strong grip on our ways of thinking because it was fostered by an evangelical religion that also purveyed many humane and democratic sentiments. It made its way into our politics because it became associated with our passion for equality. It has become formidable in our education partly because our educational beliefs are evangelically egalitarian. Hence, as far as possible, our anti-intellectualism must be excised from the benevolent impulses upon which it lives by constant and delicate acts of intellectual surgery which spare these impulses themselves.
- Richard Hofstadter, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (1974), p. 22
- Those who live by mystery & charlatanerie, fearing you would render them useless by simplifying the Christian philosophy — the most sublime and benevolent, but most perverted system that ever shone on man — endeavored to crush your well-earned & well-deserved fame.
- His parentage was obscure; his condition poor; his education null; his natural endowments great; his life correct and innocent: he was meek, benevolent, patient, firm, disinterested, & of the sublimest eloquence.
The disadvantages under which his doctrines appear are remarkable.
- Epictetus and Epicurus give laws for governing ourselves, Jesus a supplement of the duties and charities we owe to others. The establishment of the innocent and genuine character of this benevolent moralist, and the rescuing it from the imputation of imposture, which has resulted from artificial systems, invented by ultra-Christian sects, unauthorized by a single word ever uttered by him, is a most desirable object, and one to which Priestley has successfully devoted his labors and learning.
- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to William Short, (31 October 1819)
- I say, that this free exercise of reason is all I ask for the vindication of the character of Jesus. We find in the writings of his biographers matter of two distinct descriptions. First, a groundwork of vulgar ignorance, of things impossible, of superstitions, fanaticisms and fabrications. Intermixed with these, again, are sublime ideas of the Supreme Being, aphorisms and precepts of the purest morality and benevolence, sanctioned by a life of humility, innocence and simplicity of manners, neglect of riches, absence of worldly ambition and honors, with an eloquence and persuasiveness which have not been surpassed. These could not be inventions of the groveling authors who relate them. They are far beyond the powers of their feeble minds. They shew that there was a character, the subject of their history, whose splendid conceptions were above all suspicion of being interpolations from their hands.
- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to William Short (4 August 1820)
- It is, indeed, at home that every man must be known by those who would make a just estimate of either his virtue or felicity; for smiles and embroidery are like occasional, and the mind is often dressed for show in painted honor, and fictitious benevolence.
- Samuel Johnson, in The Rambler No. 68 (10 November 1750)
- Benevolence is a duty. He who frequently practises it, and sees his benevolent intentions realized, at length comes really to love him to whom he has done good. When, therefore, it is said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” it is not meant, thou shalt love him first, and do good to him in consequence of that love, but, thou shalt do good to thy neighbour, and this thy beneficence will engender in thee that love to mankind which is the fulness and consummation of the inclination to do good.
- By Emmanuel Kant quoted in James Lee (M.A.) (1867). Bible illustrations: consisting of apophthegms [ &c.], grouped under Scripture passages, by J. Lee. subscribers' ed. p. 199.
- Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.
- By Martin Luther King Jr. quoted in Michael Lynberg (2001). Make Each Day Your Masterpiece: Practical Wisdom for Living an Exceptional Life. Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 181. ISBN 978-0-7407-1968-4.
- TO LOVE is to find pleasure in the happiness of others. Thus the habit of loving someone is nothing other than BENEVOLENCE by which we want the good of others, not for the profit that we gain from it, but because it is agreeable to us in itself.
CHARITY is a general benevolence. And JUSTICE is charity in accordance with wisdom. ... so that one does not do harm to someone without necessity, and that one does as much good as one can, but especially where it is best employed.
- Benevolence is often very peremptory.
- Every soul, the philosopher says, is involuntarily deprived of truth; consequently in the same way it is deprived of justice and temperance and benevolence and everything of the kind. It is most necessary to keep this in mind, for thus thou wilt be more gentle towards all.
- Marcus Aurelius, in Meditations (c. 161–180 CE), Book VII, 63
- Art thy not content that thou hast done something conformable to thy nature, and dost thou seek to be paid for it? Just as if the eye demanded recompense for seeing, or the feet for walking. For as these members are formed for a particular purpose … so also is man formed by nature to acts of benevolence.
- Marcus Aurelius, in Meditations (c. 161–180 CE), Book IX, 42
- In Britain, empire was justified as a benevolent "White Man's Burden." And in the United States, empire does not even exist; "we" are merely protecting the causes of freedom, democracy, and justice worldwide.
- All the calamities, strifes, complaints, and hatred in the world have arisen out of want of mutual love. Therefore the benevolent disapproved of this want.
- When ruler and ruled love each other they will be gracious and loyal; when father and son love each other they will be affectionate and filial; when older and younger brothers love each other they will be harmonious. When all the people in the world love one another, then the strong will not overpower the weak, the many will not oppress the few, the wealthy will not mock the poor, the honoured will not disdain the humble, and the cunning will not deceive the simple. And it is all due to mutual love that calamities, strife, complaints, and hatred are prevented from arising. Therefore the benevolent exalt it.
- Mozi, in Mozi, as translated by W. P. Mei, Book 4; Universal Love II
- Genuine benevolence is not stationary, but peripatetic. It goeth about doing good.
- By William Nevins quoted in Pearls of Thought. 1882. p. 27.
- We can’t consider that women have kinky tastes, can we? No, because women are naturally benevolent and nurturing, aren’t they? Everything is so damn Mary Poppins and sanitized.
- Camille Paglia, in Sex, Art and American Culture : New Essays (1992), The Rape Debate, Continued, p. 65
- Order and reason, beauty and benevolence, are characteristics and conceptions which we find solely associated with the mind of man.
- Karl Pearson, as quoted in A Cultural History of the American Novel, 1890-1940 : Henry James to William Faulkner (1996) by David Minter, p. 32
- The benevolent affections will not revolve around selfishness; the cold-hearted must expect to meet coldness; the proud, haughtiness; the passionate, anger; and the violent, rudeness. Those who forget the rights of others, must not be surprised if their own are forgotten; and those who stoop to the lowest embraces of sense must not wonder, if others are not concerned to find their prostrate honor, and lift it up to the remembrance and respect of the world.
- Albert Pike, in Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry (1871), Ch. XXII : Grand Master Architect, p. 193
- You cannot make a pair of croak-voiced Daleks appear benevolent, even if you dress one of them in an Armani suit and call the other Marmaduke.
- Proportion thy charity to the strength of thy estate, lest God proportion thy estate to the weakness of thy charity; let the lips of the poor be the trumpet of thy gift, lest in seeking applause, thou lose thy reward. Nothing is more pleasing to God than an open hand and a close mouth.-
- I decided that the only form of government was a benevolent despotism, tempered with assassination. Then I went home again, hopeless. I am still hopeless, for that matter. We will commit the same follies again. Nothing teaches us.
- Mary Roberts Rinehart, in My Story (1948), p. 223
- When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?
- Eleanor Roosevelt quoted in Strive to Love, Anticipate with Hope, Believe in Faith (2011) by Catherine Basten, p. 15
- "Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, that ye may be the sons of your Heavenly Father, who makes the sun to shine on the good and on the evil, and the rain to fall on the just and unjust." How monstrous a calumny have not impostors dared to advance against the mild and gentle author of this just sentiment, and against the whole tenor of his doctrines and his life, overflowing with benevolence and forbearance and compassion!
- Jesus Christ represented God as the principle of all good, the source of all happiness, the wise and benevolent Creator and Preserver of all living things. But the interpreters of his doctrines have confounded the good and the evil principle.
- Percy Bysshe Shelley, in an unfinished Essay on Christianity (written 1815; published 1859)
- It is necessary that universal benevolence should supersede the regulations of precedent and prescription, before these regulations can safely be abolished. Meanwhile, their very subsistence depends on the system of injustice and violence, which they have been devised to palliate.
- Percy Bysshe Shelley, in an unfinished Essay on Christianity (written 1815; published 1859)
- When our passive feelings are almost always so sordid and so selfish, how comes it that our active principles should often be so generous and so noble? When we are always so much more deeply affected by whatever concerns ourselves, than by whatever concerns other men; what is it which prompts the generous, upon all occasions, and the mean upon many, to sacrifice their own interests to the greater interests of others? It is not the soft power of humanity, it is not that feeble spark of benevolence which Nature has lighted up in the human heart, that is thus capable of counteracting the strongest impulses of self-love. It is a stronger power, a more forcible motive, which exerts itself upon such occasions. It is reason, principle, conscience, the inhabitant of the breast, the man within, the great judge and arbiter of our conduct.
- But man has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren, and it is in vain for him to expect it from their benevolence only. He will be more likely to prevail if he can interest their self-love in his favour, and shew them that it is for their own advantage to do for him what he requires of them. Whoever offers to another a bargain of any kind, proposes to do this. Give me that which I want, and you shall have this which you want, is the meaning of every such offer; and it is in this manner that we obtain from one another the far greater part of those good offices which we stand in need of. It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity, but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages.
- If to be venerated for benevolence, if to be admired for talents, if to be esteemed for patriotism, if to be loved for philanthropy, can gratify the human mind, you must have the pleasing consolation to know that you have not lived in vain.
- To enlarge the sphere of social happiness is worthy of the benevolent design of a Masonic institution; and it is most fervently to be wished, that the conduct of every member of the fraternity, as well as those publications, that discover the principles which actuate them, may tend to convince mankind that the grand object of Masonry is to promote the happiness of the human race.
- George Washington, in a letter to the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (January 1793), published in The Writings Of George Washington (1835) by Jared Sparks, p. 201
- A benevolent disposition is, no doubt, a great help towards a course of uniform practical benevolence; but let no one trust to it, when there are other strong propensities, and no firm good principle.
- The nicest feeling in the world is to do a good deed anonymously-and have somebody find out.
- By Oscar Wilde quoted in Dean Nelson (1 September 2009). God Hides in Plain Sight: How to See the Sacred in a Chaotic World. Brazos Press. p. 203. ISBN 978-1-4412-0483-7.
- When it comes to giving, some people stop at nothing.
- Widely used anonymous saying, dating to at least The Catholic Digest, Vol. 27 (1963) where it is tenuously credited to Mary C. Dorsey, p. 141
- The trouble with some folks who give till it hurts is that they are so sensitive to pain.
- Anonymous saying quoted in “The Speaker's Quote Book: Over 5,000 Illustrations and Quotations for All Occasions”, p.211
- In order to appreciate the luxury of giving, one must have been, at some time, poor.
- Anonymous saying quoted in “The Speaker's Quote Book: Over 5,000 Illustrations and Quotations for All Occasions”, p.211