Our characters are the stories of our lives.
Only two solvents are of use with the encrustations of our characters. These are love and sorrow.
We are tempted to make gods of our impulses because they rule us from within beyond our reach.
There is much that is tawdry in our characters. What makes it worse than tawdry is our refusal to admit it, so that we give it license to operate with a free rein beyond our moral vision.
Character is all too often nothing more than the intimate fatality of habit.
The capacity to discern character, applied both to our own and to others’, opens our hearts to the ubiquity of tragedy, for there are no virtues not founded at least partly in flaws.
We are always vain of our judgment of character, because we cherish the mistaken notion that much of our judgment is simply perception, so intimately wedded are we to our own habits of judgment, however flawed they may be.
There is no road but our own folly that we can travel to self-knowledge.
Some people are made of such complex amalgams of rock and cloud that, at the same time as we find them impenetrable, they envelop us.
We reserve our most bitter accusations for those we trust the most.
It is hard to describe the secret, voluptuous security of a simple refusal to be pleased. The power to please can often seem the power not only to disrupt but to destroy.
When we experience someone as “simple,” this may be an expression of their integration rather than of their limitation.
With time laziness becomes malevolence.
Indifference is the most common form of murder.
We are more than one person not only in the eyes of others, but also in our own eyes. Nor is it true that we see with eyes that are simple, but more with eyes that are compound and use different perspectives to accommodate different kinds of experience.
Intelligence without reliable mooring in relationship is likely to become a device for exquisite self-torture if not for the torture of others.
Our inadequacies can inspire those who love us.
A vice is a false synthesis based on a true principle of our nature.
The habit of dissembling gives us a stranger’s face and a stranger’s heart.
We caricature our own characters when we pretend to be able to describe our own virtues and vices.
Sometimes it is only late in life that we can learn to read our signature in our acts and flaws, in our accomplishments and our shortcomings,in our loves and losses.
When we doubt ourselves, we suspect our neighbors.
We can not be sober unless we are separate.
We are apt to be wicked when we think we are wise.
A violent conscience protests separation as much as sin.
Self-deception takes the form of the most intimate inner caresses.
The capacity to disappoint is a great gift.
Because of a single whim that seems harrowingly malevolent to us, we may send ourselves into exile for decades, savoring the thrill of its memory all the while.
Even as poisonous mushrooms use brilliant coloring to advertise their threat, while edible mushrooms tend to be drab and difficult to discover, so dazzling people are often poisonous, while those who are less gaudy have more to give.
We are never as idle as we think we are.
The illusions of a happy man protect him from knowledge not only of what is discreditable about him but also of what is discreditable about others, thus commending him at once to himself and to others.
Greed ensues when our desire defaults on its obligation to be sagacious and specific about the conditions of its satisfaction.
We learn from our transgressions only when we can bear to be frank with ourselves about the ways in which we genuinely enjoyed them.
Self-hatred, alas, can be a sufficiently consistent and comprehensive cause and passion to provide the foundation for a way of life.
Once we see that every personality structure and every social structure accommodates and articulates certain needs and desires while setting others beyond the pale of representation and rendering them voiceless, we are in a position to grasp the tragic kinship of personality and social structure, of character and culture.