[Ads-l] Quote: We are all inclined to judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their acts

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri Mar 20 11:51:31 UTC 2015

A quotation trace/analysis for the statement in the subject line is
now available on the Quote Investigator website. There are two parts:

We Are Too Prone to Judge Ourselves by Our Ideals and Other People by Their Acts

We Judge Ourselves by What We Feel Capable of Doing, While Others
Judge Us by What We Have Already Done

The trace begins in 1836. Here is a summary of the shifting vocabulary:

    1836 motives / actions
    1885 intentions / doings
    1892 intentions / actions
    1909 motives / acts
    1915 intentions / performance
    1930 ideals / acts
    1932 ideals / deeds
    1932 intentions / acts
    1932 ideals / conduct
    1997 motives / behavior


On Thu, Mar 12, 2015 at 1:09 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
> The Yale Book of Quotations has the following saying attributed to the
> English politician Harold Nicolson based on a Readers Digest citation
> dated May 1936:
> [Begin quotation]
> We are all inclined to judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their acts.
> [End quotation]
> I was asked to trace this saying and found that some other works have
> assigned the words to the diplomat Dwight Morrow. Below is a revealing
> citation. Harold Nicolson wrote a 1935 biography of Morrow and
> Nicolson ascribed the adage to Morrow:
> [ref] 1975 (Copyright 1935), Dwight Morrow by Harold Nicolson, Quote
> Page 50 and 51, Series: Wall Street and the Security Markets,
> Published by Arno Press, New York. (Reprint of 1935 Harcourt, Brace
> and Company, New York edition) (Verified on paper)[/ref]
> [Begin excerpt]
> His magnanimity, again, was something more than a subjectively
> generous attitude towards life; it was a positive and energetic
> tolerance. "Remember," he would often repeat, "that we are all
> inclined to judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their acts."
> [End excerpt]
> I am still researching the saying. Here is a 1932 citation that credits Morrow:
> [ref] 1932 April, The Rattle of Theta Chi, Volume 20, Number 7, Has
> Faith in Youth, Start Page 20, Quote Page 20, (Report on speech by
> Seward Reese), Official Publication of Theta Chi Fraternity, Published
> in Athens, Ohio. (Google Books Full View)[/ref]
> [Begin excerpt]
> He believes that the critics of youth make the mistake of judging them
> by their attainments rather than their aims, and quotes the late
> Dwight Morrow:
> "The cause of intolerance and misunderstanding is that we judge
> ourselves by our ideals, and others by their deeds."
> "Let older people reverse the process," says Reese, "judging
> themselves by their actions, and students by their ideals, and it
> would end a lot of harsh criticism."
> [End excerpt]
> There are precursors in the 1800s including a line by the poet Henry
> Wadsworth Longfellow. An analysis will probably be posted on the Quote
> Investigator website in a week or two.
> Garson

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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