Collected Maxims by La Rochefoucauld: Reflections on Human Nature
La Rochefoucauld's maxims encapsulate uncomfortable and everlasting truths about the human condition. These are my favourite maxims from the 1678 edition.
The steadfastness of the wise is but the art of keeping their agitation locked in their hearts.
If we had no faults we should not find so much enjoyment in seeing faults in others.
Our promises are made in proportion to our hopes, but kept in proportion to our fears.
Our temperament decides the value of everything the fortune bestows upon us.
In order to succeed in the world people do their utmost to appear successful.
Truth does not do as much good in the world as the semblance of truth does evil.
In most men love of justice is only fear of suffering injustice.
Silence is the safest policy if you are unsure of yourself.
To be known well things must be known in detail, but. as detail is almost infinite, our knowledge is always superficial and imperfect.
It is easier to be wise for others than for oneself.
Few people are wise enough to prefer useful criticism to the sort of praise which is their undoing.
The glory of great men must always be measured against the means they have used to acquire it.
We are held to our duty by laziness and timidity, but often virtue gets all the audit.
Desire to appear clever often prevents our becoming so.
Perfect valour consists in doing without witnesses what one would be capable of doing before the world at large.
Nobody deserves to be praised for goodness unless he is strong enough to be bad, for any other goodness is usually merely inertia or lack of will-power.
Supreme cleverness is knowledge of the real value of things.
True eloquence consists in saying that all that is required and only what is required.
It is impossible to love for a second time anything you have really ceased to love.
The reason why lovers never tire of each other's company is that the conversation is always about themselves.
We own up to minor failings, but only so as to convince others that we have no major ones.
To achieve greatness a man must know how to turn all his chances to good account.
We are always bored by the very people by whom it is vital not to be bored.
Commonplace minds usually condemn whatever is beyond their powers.
No people are more often wrong than those who cannot bear to be.
What makes the vanity of others intolerable is that it hurts our own.
The most difficult undertaking in friendship is not showing our faults to our friend, but making him see his own.
We freely forgive in our friends those faults which do not affect us.
Chance and caprice rule the world.
We try to make virtues out of the faults we have no wish to correct.
No fools are so difficult to manage as those with some brains.
It would pay us better to let ourselves be seen as we are than to try to appear what we are not.
There is often more pride than kindness in our pity for the misfortunes of our enemies, for we make a display of sympathy in order to impress them with our superiority.
We are lazier in mind than in body.
Quarrels would not last long if the fault were on one side only.
Hope and fear are inseparable, and there is no fear without hope nor hope without fear.
We should not take offence when people hide the truth from us, since so often we hide it from ourselves.
We are quick to criticise the faults of others, but slow to use those faults to correct our own.
The good and bad things that happen to us touch our emotions not in proportion to their importance but to our sensitivity.
Extreme boredom provides its own antidote.
Most things are praised or decried because it is fashionable to praise or decry them.
A good woman is a hidden treasure: the finder is well advised not to boast about it.
Almost always we are bored by people to. whom we ourselves are boring.
A man who dislikes everybody is much more unhappy than a man nobody likes.