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Obedience, in human behavior, is the quality of being obedient, which describes the act of carrying out commands, or being actuated.


  • The wise man must not be ordered but must order, and he must not obey another, but the less wise must obey him.
    • Aristotle, Metaphysics, 982a15, W. Ross, trans., The Basic Works of Aristotle (2001), p. 691.
  • The fear of some divine and supreme powers keeps men in obedience.
    • Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), Part III, Section 4. Memb. 1. Subsec. 2.
  • The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum—even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there's free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.
  • When Diogenes of Sinope was sold as a slave, he endured it most nobly. For on a voyage to Aegina he was captured by pirates under the command of Scirpalus, conveyed to Crete and exposed for sale. When the auctioneer asked in what he was proficient, he replied, "In ruling men." Thereupon he pointed to a certain Corinthian with a fine purple border to his robe, the man named Xeniades above-mentioned, and said, "Sell me to this man; he needs a master."
  • She stirs confusion and chaos against those who are disobedient to her, speeding carnage and inciting the devastating flood, clothed in terrifying radiance. It is her game to speed conflict and battle, untiring, strapping on her sandals. Clothed (?) in a furious storm, a whirlwind, she ...... the garment of ladyship. When she touches ...... there is despair, a south wind which has covered ....... Inana sits on harnessed (?) lions, she cuts to pieces him who shows no respect. A leopard of the hills, entering (?) the roads, raging (?), ......, the mistress is a great bull trusting in its strength; no one dare turn against her. ......, the foremost among the Great Princes, a pitfall for the disobedient, a trap for the evil, a ...... for the hostile, wherever she casts her venom .......
  • It isn't right to be obedient only when things go well; it is much harder to be a good, obedient soldier when things go badly and times are hard. Obedience and faith at such time is a virtue.
    • Wilhelm Keitel, to Leon Goldensohn, May 17, 1946, from "The Nuremberg Interviews" by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately (2004), p. 166.
  • Obedience is the key to every door.
  • I find the doing of the will of God, leaves me no time for disputing about His plans.
  • The legal and philosophic aspects of obedience are of enormous importance, but they say very little about how most people behave in concrete situations. I set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist. Stark authority was pitted against the subjects' [participants'] strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects' [participants'] ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not. The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation.
Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority
  • Son of Heav'n and Earth,
    Attend! That thou art happy, owe to God;
    That thou continuest such, owe to thyself,
    That is, to thy obedience; therein stand.
  • Ascend, I follow thee, safe guide, the path
    Thou lead'st me, and to the hand of heav'n submit.
  • Jeannie: Your wish is my command, Master.
  • The powerful, if they carry oppression beyond a certain point, necessarily end by making themselves adored by their slaves. For the thought of being under absolute compulsion, the plaything of another, is unendurable for a human being. Hence, if every way of escape from the constraint is taken from him, there is nothing left for him to do but to persuade himself that he does the things he is forced to do willingly, that is to say, to substitute devotion for obedience. ... It is by this twist that slavery debases the soul: this devotion is in fact based on a lie, since the reasons for it cannot bear investigation.
  • That ... is the road to the obedience of compulsion. But there is a shorter way to a nobler goal, the obedience of the will. When the interests of mankind are at stake, they will obey with joy the man whom they believe to be wiser than themselves. You may prove this on all sides: you may see how the sick man will beg the doctor to tell him what he ought to do, how a whole ship's company will listen to the pilot.
    • Xenophon, Cyropaedia, Book 1, Chapter 6; translation. Henry Graham Dakyns (Cyropaedia (2004) p. 29).

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 564.
  • Obedience is the mother of success, the wife of safety.
  • Qui modeste paret, videtur qui aliquando imperet dignus esse.
    • He who obeys with modesty appears worthy of being some day a commander.
    • Cicero, De Legibus, III. 2.
  • 'Tis the same, with common natures,
    Use 'em kindly, they rebel,
    But, be rough as nutmeg graters,
    And the rogues obey you well.
    • Aaron Hill, verses written on a Window in a Journey to Scotland.
  • All arts his own, the hungry Greekling counts;
    And bid him mount the skies, the skies he mounts.
    • Juvenal, Third Satire. Translation by Gifford.
  • All sciences a fasting Monsieur knows;
    And bid him go to hell—to hell he goes.
    • Juvenal, Third Satire. Paraphrased by Johnson—London.
  • No nice extreme a true Italian knows;
    But bid him go to hell, to hell he goes.
    • Juvenal, Third Satire. Paraphrased by Phillips, in a letter to the king in reference to the Italian witnesses at the trial of Queen Caroline.
  • Though a god I have learned to obey the times.
    • Palladas, Epigram, in Palatine Anthology, IX, 441.
  • Through obedience learn to command.
  • The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it.
    • Proverbs, XXX. 17.
  • Obedience decks the Christian most.

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)[edit]

Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).

  • The sound convert takes a whole Christ, and takes Him for all intents and purposes, without exceptions, without limitations, without reserves. He is willing to have Christ, upon His own terms, upon any terms. He is willing to bear the dominion of Christ as well as have deliverance by Christ. He saith with Paul, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?"
  • O God, the strength of all those who put their trust in Thee; mercifully accept our prayer; and because through the weakness of our mortal nature, we can do no good thing without Thee, grant us the help of Thy grace, that in keeping Thy commandments we may please Thee, both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
    • Book Of Common Prayer, p. 436.
  • The history of all the great characters of the Bible is summed up in this one sentence: — they acquainted themselves with God, and acquiesced in His will in all things.
  • "Arise, take up thy bed and walk." You are on your bed now. You put yourself there by your own sin. You have kept yourself there by your own choice. Every sinner is a sinner because he chooses to be; and you are no exception. Jesus commands you to repent and trust Him and follow Him. The moment you are willing to obey, He gives you strength to obey.
  • Worship is easier than obedience. Men are ever readier to serve the priest than to obey the prophet.
  • I believe that the fewer the laws in a home the better; but there is one law which should be as plainly understood as the shining of the sun is visible at noonday, and that is, implicit and instantaneous obedience from the child to the parent, not only for the peace of the home, but for the highest good of the child.
  • Poor, sad Humanity
    Through all the dust and heat
    Turns back with bleeding feet,
    By the weary road it came,
    Unto the simple thought
    By the Great Master taught,
    And that remaineth still,
    Not he that repeateth the name,
    But he that doeth the will!
  • True obedience to God is the obedience of faith and good works; that is, he is truly obedient to God who trusts Him, and does what He commands.
  • O that we could take that simple view of things, as to feel that the one thing which lies before us is to please God! What gain is it to please the world, to please the great, nay, even to please those whom we love, compared with this? What gain is it to be applauded, admired, courted, followed,—compared with this one aim of "not being disobedient to the heavenly vision?"
  • Let the ground of all thy religious actions be obedience; examine not why it is commanded, but observe it because it is commanded. True obedience neither procrastinates nor questions.
  • This is the secret of Christ's kingship— "He became obedient — wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him." And this is the secret of all obedience and all command. Obedience to a law above you subjugates minds to you who never would have yielded to mere will.
  • "Sir," said the Duke of Wellington to an officer of engineers, who urged the impossibility of executing the directions he had received, "I did not ask your opinion, I gave you my orders, and I expect them to be obeyed." Such should be the obedience of every follower of Jesus.

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