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Adversity is the universal human experience of facing obstacles and setbacks.


  • Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament; adversity is the blessing of the New.
  • If thou faint in the day of adversity thy strength is small.
  • And these vicissitudes come best in youth;
    For when they happen at a riper age,
    People are apt to blame the Fates, forsooth,
    And wonder Providence is not more sage.
    Adversity is the first path to truth:
    He who hath proved war, storm or woman's rage,
    Whether his winters be eighteen or eighty,
    Has won the experience which is deem'd so weighty.
  • Adversity is sometimes hard upon a man; but for one man who can stand prosperity, there are a hundred that will stand adversity.
    • Thomas Carlyle, Heroes and Hero-Worship (1840), The Hero as Man of Letters (1840).
  • Most people can bear adversity; but if you wish to know what a man really is give him power. This is the supreme test. It is the glory of Lincoln that, having almost absolute power, he never used it except on the side of mercy.
    • Robert G. Ingersoll (1883), Unity: Freedom, Fellowship and Character in Religion, Volume 11, Number 3, The Exchange Table, True Greatness Exemplified in Abraham Lincoln, by Robert G. Ingersoll (excerpt), Quote Page 55, Column 1 and 2, Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View)
  • was ihn nicht umbringt, macht ihn stärker
    • What does not kill him, makes him stronger.
    • Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo (1888), "Why I Am So Wise", 2; this is often paraphrased as: What does not kill me, makes me stronger.
  • Sweet are the uses of adversity,
    Which like the toad, ugly and venomous,
    Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
    And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
    Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
    Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.
  • Prosperity makes friends, adversity tries them.
  • It is the duty of all persons, when affairs are the most prosperous, then in especial to reflect within themselves in what way they are to endure adversity.
    • Terence, Phormio, Act II, scene i (166 BC).

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 9-10.
  • It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
    • Acts, IX. 5.
  • Adversity is sometimes hard upon a man; but for one man who can stand prosperity, there are a hundred that will stand adversity.
  • Aromatic plants bestow
    No spicy fragrance while they grow;
    But crush'd or trodden to the ground,
    Diffuse their balmy sweets around.
  • Thou tamer of the human breast,
    Whose iron scourge and tort'ring hour
    The bad affright, afflict the best!
  • Dans l'adversité de nos meilleurs amis nous trouvons toujours quelque chose qui ne nous deplaist pas.
    • In the adversity of our best friends we often find something which does not displease us.
    • François de La Rochefoucauld, Maxim 99 (Ed. 1665. Suppressed in 3rd ed. Quoted as old saying).
  • Adversæ res admonent religionum.
    • Adversity reminds men of religion.
    • Livy, Annales, V. 51.
  • The Good are better made by Ill,
    As odours crushed are sweeter still.
  • Ecce spectaculum dignum, ad quod respiciat intentus operi suo Deus. Ecce par Deo dignum, vir fortis cum mala fortuna compositus.
    • Behold a worthy sight, to which the God, turning his attention to his own work, may direct his gaze. Behold an equal thing, worthy of a God, a brave man matched in conflict with evil fortune.
    • Seneca the Younger, Lib. de Divina Providentia.
  • Gaudent magni viri rebus adversis non aliter, quam fortes milites bellis.
    • Great men rejoice in adversity just as brave soldiers triumph in war.
    • Seneca the Younger, De Providentia, IV.
  • A wretched soul, bruis'd with adversity,
    We bid be quiet when we hear it cry;
    But were we burthen'd with like weight of pain,
    As much, or more, we should ourselves complain.
  • His overthrow heap'd happiness upon him;
    For then, and not till then, he felt himself,
    And found the blessedness of being little.
  • A wise man struggling with adversity is said by some heathen writer to be a spectacle on which the gods might look down with pleasure.
  • In all distresses of our friends
    We first consult our private ends.

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)

Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
  • God kills thy comforts from no other design but to kill thy corruptions; wants are ordained to kill wantonness, poverty is appointed to kill pride, reproaches are permitted to destroy ambition.
  • In the day of prosperity we have many refuges to resort to; in the day of adversity, only one.
  • Adversity borrows its sharpest sting from impatience.

See also