Cowardice

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Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why so great a proportion of men, long after nature has released them from alien guidance, nonetheless gladly remain in lifelong immaturity, and why it is so easy for others to establish themselves as their guardians. ~ Kant
The coward calls himself cautious, the miser thrifty. ~ Syrus

Cowardice is a trait wherein excessive fear prevents an individual from taking a risk or facing danger. It is the opposite of courage. As a label, "cowardice" indicates a failure of character in the face of a challenge. One who succumbs to cowardice is known as a coward. As the opposite of bravery, which many historical and current human societies reward, cowardice is seen as a character flaw that is detrimental to society and thus the failure to face one's fear is often stigmatized and/or punished.

Quotes

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  • I question not but the more virtuous and considerate parts of our malcontents are now stung with a very just remorse, for this their manner of proceeding, which has so visibly tended to the destruction of their friends, and the sufferings of their country. This may, at the same time, prove an instructive lesson to the boldest and bravest among the disaffected, not to build any hopes upon the talkative zealots of their party; who have shown, by their whole behaviour, that their hearts are equally filled with treason and cowardice. No. 28. Monday, March 26, 1716
  • An army of trumpeters would give as great a strength to a cause, as this confederacy of tongue-warriors; who, like those military musicians, content themselves with animating their friends to battle, and run out of the engagement upon the first onset. No. 28. Monday, March 26, 1716
  • COWARD, n. One who in a perilous emergency thinks with his legs.
    • Ambrose Bierce, The Cynic's Dictionary (1906); republished as The Devil's Dictionary (1911).
  • True courage… has so little to do with Anger, that there lies always the strongest Suspicion against it, where this Passion is highest.
    The true Courage is the cool and calm.
    The bravest of Men have the least of a brutal bullying Insolence; and in the very time of Danger are found the most serene, pleasant, and free.
    Rage, we know, can make a Coward forget himself and fight. But what is done in Fury, or Anger, can never be plac'd to the account of Courage.
  • Walk on with courage and bravery. Go on working to improve humankind and establish the Path of Truth. (…) Fight for truth! To face life you must have great courage every day....
    Now people with courage are needed. It is better to die, facing life with courage. To live as a coward is shameful – it is better that the coward drown himself in the river.
  • Questions at home and school should be decided in the light of the future. It is a process of toughening, but not the sort of false physical thing that we have called toughening. Our boys and girls ought to know that the bully type, the false "tough," has been the first to break down under the actual fire of battle. The quiet, the calm, the determined have made the best soldiers. Why? Obviously the bully is insecure in himself- he blusters to muster his own courage. Children ought to know that. They ought to be taught to retort to the bully, "You're a coward or you wouldn't make such a noise about being brave. The really brave man simply acts brave- he doesn't have to talk about it."
  • Folly such as yours,
    Grac'd with a sword, and worthier of a fan,
    Has made what enemies could ne'er have done.
    Our arch of empire, stedfast but for you,
    A mutilated structure, soon to fall.
  • Be scared. You can’t help that. But don’t be afraid. Ain’t nothing in the woods going to hurt you unless you corner it, or it smells that you are afraid. A bear or a deer, too, has got to be scared of a coward the same as a brave man has got to be.
  • Courage is defined as: the ability to face danger, difficulty, uncertainty, or pain without being overcome by fear or being deflected from a chosen course of action. Many of today’s world leaders have great courage: I wonder... would we be better off with cowardice?
  • Criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot. So my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts. I must be a creature of the night, black, terrible...
    • Bill Finger, Batman, The Batman Wars Against the Dirigible of Doom Detective Comics #33 (November 1939)
  • My own experience confirms the opinion that the Mussalman as a rule is a bully, and the Hindu as a rule is a coward. I have noticed this in railway trains, on public roads, and in the quar­rels which I had the privilege of settling. Need the Hindu blame the Mussalman for his cowardice? Where there are cowards, there will always be bullies... But I, as a Hindu, am more ashamed of Hindu cowardice than I am angry at the Mussalman bullying.... My non-violence does not admit of running away from danger and leaving dear ones unprotected. Between violence and cowardly flight, I can only prefer violence to cowardice.
    • Mahatma Gandhi, The source quoted is "Hindu-Muslim Tension: Its Cause and Cure", Young India, 29/5/1924; reproduced in M.K. Gandhi: The Hindu-Muslim Unity, p.35-36. [1] Young India, 1924-1926. S. Ganesan. 1927. pp. 32-36.
  • Cowards are cruel, but the brave
    Love mercy, and delight to save.
    • John Gay, Fables (1727), Part I. Fable 1.
  • Lie not, neither to thyself nor men nor God. Let mouth and heart be one — beat and speak together, and make both felt in action. It is for cowards to lie.
  • Dishonor waits on perfidy. A man should blush to think a falsehood; it is the crime of cowards.
    • Samuel Johnson, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers, (1895) p. 242
  • Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why so great a proportion of men, long after nature has released them from alien guidance, nonetheless gladly remain in lifelong immaturity, and why it is so easy for others to establish themselves as their guardians. It is so easy to be immature. If I have a book to serve as my understanding, a pastor to serve as my conscience, a physician to determine my diet for me, and so on, I need not exert myself at all. I need not think, if only I can pay: others will readily undertake the irksome work for me. The guardians who have so benevolently taken over the supervision of men have carefully seen to it that the far greatest part of them (including the entire fair sex) regard taking the step to maturity as very dangerous, not to mention difficult. Having first made their domestic livestock dumb, and having carefully made sure that these docile creatures will not take a single step without the go-cart to which they are harnessed, these guardians then show them the danger that threatens them, should they attempt to walk alone. Now this danger is not actually so great, for after falling a few times they would in the end certainly learn to walk; but an example of this kind makes men timid and usually frightens them out of all further attempts.
Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?'... Vanity asks the question, 'Is it popular?' But, conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?' And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe or politic, nor popular but take it because one’s conscience tells one that it is right. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the question, 'Is it politic?' Vanity asks the question, 'Is it popular?' But, conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?' And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe or politic, nor popular but take it because one’s conscience tells one that it is right.
  • And cowards will have the reputation of bravery and the brave will be cheerless like cowards...
    • Mahabharata, Book 3, Vana Parva, Section CLXL, p. 392, (c. 400 BCE)
  • Only cowards kill the vanquished
We don't want yellow cowards in this Army. They should be killed off like rats. If not, they will go home after this war and breed more cowards. The brave men will breed more brave men. Kill off the Goddamned cowards and we will have a nation of brave men. ~ George S. Patton
  • And cowards will have the reputation of bravery and the brave will be cheerless like cowards... men will cease to trust one another... full of avarice... sin will increase and prosper, while virtue will fade and cease to flourish.

Mahabharata, Book 3, Vana Parva ~400 BCE

  • Each man must not think only of himself, but also of his buddy fighting beside him. We don't want yellow cowards in this Army. They should be killed off like rats. If not, they will go home after this war and breed more cowards. The brave men will breed more brave men. Kill off the Goddamned cowards and we will have a nation of brave men.
  • Complete courage and absolute cowardice are extremes that very few men fall into. The vast middle space contains all the intermediate kinds and degrees of courage; and these differ as much from one another as men's faces or their humors do.
  • Cowards are nice, they're interesting, they're gentle, they wouldn't think of shooting down people in a parade from a tower. They want to live, so they can see their kids. They're very brave.
  • You souls of geese,
    That bear the shapes of men, how have you run
    From slaves that apes would beat!
  • So bees with smoke and doves with noisome stench
    Are from their hives and houses driven away.
    They call'd us for our fierceness English dogs;
    Now like to whelps, we crying run away.
  • A plague of all cowards, I say.
  • So cowards fight when they can fly no further;
    As doves do peck the falcon's piercing talons;
    So desperate thieves, all hopeless of their lives,
    Breathe out invectives 'gainst the officers.
  • Thou slave, thou wretch, thou coward!
    Thou little valiant, great in villany!
    Thou ever strong upon the stronger side!
    Thou Fortune's champion, that dost never fight
    But when her humorous ladyship is by
    To teach thee safety!
  • Dost thou now fall over to my foes?
    Thou wear a lion's hide! doff it for shame,
    And hang a calf's skin on those recreant limbs.
  • Milk-liver'd man!
    That bear'st a cheek for blows, a head for wrongs,
    Who hast not in thy brows an eye discerning
    Thine honor from thy suffering.
  • Wouldst thou have that
    Which thou esteem'st the ornament of life,
    And live a coward in thine own esteem,
    Letting "I dare not" wait upon, "I would";
    Like the poor cat i' the adage?
  • How many cowards, whose hearts are all as false
    As stairs of sand, wear yet upon their chins
    The beards of Hercules and frowning Mars,
    Who, inward search'd, have livers white as milk.
To sin by silence, when they should protest, makes cowards of men. ~ Ella Wheeler Wilcox
  • That which in mean men we entitle patience
    Is pale cold cowardice in noble breasts.
  • By this good light, this is a very shallow monster!—I afear'd of him!—A very weak monster!—The man i' the moon!—A most poor, credulous monster!—Well drawn, monster, in good sooth!
  • As far as my observation has reached, and the circle of it is by no means, a narrow one — an hard heart is always a cowardly heart. — Generosity and courage are associate virtues; and the character which possesses the former, must, in the nature of mental arrangements, be adorned with the latter. If I perceive a man to be capable of doing a mean action, — if I see him imperious and tyrannical; if he takes advantage of the weak to oppress, or of the poor to grind, or of the downcast to insult, — or is continually on the hunt after excuses not to do what he ought, — I determine such a man, though he may have fought fifty duels, to be a coward. — It is by no means a proof that a man is brave because he does not refuse to fight; — for we all know that cowards have fought, nay, — that cowards have conquered, — but a coward never performed a generous or a noble action: — and thou hast my authority to say, — and thou mightest find a worse, that a hard-hearted character never was a brave one. I say, thou mayst justly call such a man a coward, — and, if he should be spirited into a resentment of thy words — fear him not. — Tristram shall brighten his armour, and scour the rust from off his spear, and aid thee in the combat. Sunday evening
  • Ignavissimus quisque, et ut res docuit, in periculo non ausurus, nimis verbis et lingua feroces.
    • Every recreant who proved his timidity in the hour of danger, was afterwards boldest in words and tongue.
    • Tacitus, Annales (AD 117), IV. 62.
  • “Show yourselves,” cried Stephon. “Only cowards hide in the dark.”
    “Cowards do many things,” said the voice. “Cowards kill their Commanders and make it look like a bandit attack. Cowards plot in secret. Cowards breed insurrection. Cowards plan the abuse of women.”
  • To sin by silence, when they should protest, makes cowards of men.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

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Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 145-46.
  • To see what is right and not to do it is want of courage.
  • That all men would be cowards if they dare,
    Some men we know have courage to declare.
  • The coward never on himself relies,
    But to an equal for assistance flies.
  • Der Feige droht nur, wo er sicher ist.
  • When desp'rate ills demand a speedy cure,
    Distrust is cowardice, and prudence folly.
  • He
    That kills himself to avoid misery, fears it,
    And, at the best, shows but a bastard valour.
    This life's a fort committed to my trust,
    Which I must not yield up, till it be forced:
    Nor will I. He's not valiant that dares die,
    But he that boldly bears calamity.
  • Men lie, who lack courage to tell truth — the cowards!
  • Timidi est optare necem.
    • To wish for death is a coward's part.
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, IV. 115.
  • Virtutis expers verbis jactans gloriam
    Ignotos fallit, notis est derisui.
    • A coward boasting of his courage may deceive strangers, but he is a laughing-stock to those who know him.
    • Phaedrus, Fables, I. 11. 1.
  • Vous semblez les anguilles de Melun; vous criez devant qu'on vous escorche.
    • You are like the eels of Melun; you cry out before you are skinned.
    • François Rabelais, Gargantua.
  • Canis timidus vehementius latrat quam mordet.
    • A cowardly cur barks more fiercely than it bites.
    • Quintus Curtius Rufus, De Rebus Gestis Alexandri Magni, VII, 4, 13.
  • When all the blandishments of life are gone,
    The coward sneaks to death, the brave live on.
  • Timidus se vocat cautum, parcum sordidus.
    • The coward calls himself cautious, the miser thrifty.
    • Syrus, Maxims.
  • The man that lays his hand on woman,
    Save in the way of kindness, is a wretch
    Whom 'twere gross flattery to name a coward.
  • Adieu, canaux, canards, canaille.
    • Voltaire, summing up his Impressions de Voyage, on his return from the Netherlands.
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