George Bernard Shaw is one of the most influential and well-known writers and playwrights of the British Isles, having been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature and being the author of works such as Pygmalion or Caesar and Cleopatra .
Sometimes considered the greatest playwright after Shakespeare, he was also known for his controversial views (e.g., criticizing democracy and approaching the Stalinist regime, pointing out the guilt of all sides in World War I, supporting eugenics, or criticizing vaccination). Throughout his life, he made numerous reflections on different aspects, and the most interesting ones we will see below a compilation of phrases by George Bernard Shaw .
Great quotes from George Bernard Shaw
Below is a small collection of phrases by this important playwright about different aspects of life, to get us closer to his way of seeing the world.
1. Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating you
It is not that we are searching and reflecting on who or how we are, but that we forge our destiny from our actions.
2. First love is a little madness and a great curiosity
The author shows us the strangeness and intensity of the sensations that arise when falling in love for the first time .
3. The man doesn’t stop playing because he gets old. He gets old because he stops playing
This well-known phrase indicates the importance of maintaining a young spirit and keeping the joy and excitement throughout life.
4. Ideas are like fleas, they jump from one to another but do not bite everyone
Ideas can be communicated but they will only sink in for some people.
5. Freedom implies responsibility, which is why most men fear it so much
Freedom is a universal right and desired by all , but it also implies the responsibility to take charge of one’s own life.
6. Hate is the revenge of a bullied coward
Hate is a mechanism by which someone who is intimidated establishes a mental mechanism or imagines an act of revenge.
7. If you’ve built a castle in the air you haven’t wasted any time, that’s where it should be. Now you must build the foundation underneath it
Dreaming is never a waste of time, as long as we do something to make those dreams come true.
8. Men make mistakes more often because they are too smart than too good
Many people consider themselves very intelligent and try to show it off, making mistakes in the process.
9. The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one tries to adapt the world to himself. Thus, progress depends on the unreasonable man
Reason has always been seen as a great aspect that should govern our behaviour, although at heart it is its absence that allows us to move forward as a society and species rather than just adapt to the world.
10. Virtue does not consist in abstaining from vice, but in not desiring it
For the author, what is truly virtuous is not desiring the vices or not giving them importance , instead of repressing the desire for them.
11. There is always someone who kisses and someone who just allows the kiss
A phrase that refers to the existence of asymmetries in the relationship and in the roles that are established.
12. The man who listens to reason is lost. Reason enslaves all those who are not strong enough to master it
Reason is useful and necessary, but we must not allow ourselves to be dominated by it and ignore our emotions and desires.
13. Obedience simulates subordination, just as fear of the police simulates honesty
The author points out that following the rules or orders does not imply agreeing with them internally.
14. There are two tragedies in life: one is not achieving what the heart desires; the other is achieving it
Not achieving something desired can be very frustrating, but achieving it can also be very frustrating, since it has overcome the difficulties and no longer serves as a motivation for action because it does not require an effort to achieve the desired result.
15. What truly flatters a man is that he believes he is worth flattering
It is not really important what you say to someone to flatter them, but the fact that you observe that they are considered worthy of it.
16. The fact that a believer can be happier than a skeptic is as true as saying that the drunkard is happier than the sober man
Happiness is completely independent of whether or not one believes. You are simply going to hold on to certain beliefs or not.
17. Poets talk to themselves and the world hears them by chance
Poetry is a way for its authors to verbally express their thoughts and emotions.
18. War does not decide who is right, but who is left
In war there are neither winners nor losers , and the winner does not necessarily have to be the one who is most right but the one who survives.
19. Mirrors are used to see the face; art to see the soul
The author establishes a simile between both elements to show that art is a reflection of the interior of its creators.
20. Beware of the man who does not slap you back
Someone attacked may not initially strike back, but over time they may rebel and strike back together.
21. Everything happens in the world, sooner or later, if there is enough time
Reflection on the fact that everything is possible and can come.
22. The worst sin towards our fellow men is not to hate them, but to treat them with indifference: that is the essence of inhumanity
Indifference generates much more pain than hate, because while the latter recognizes the existence of the opposite, the former does not even accept it as an equal.
23. Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything
Being flexible and able to adapt to changes and generate new thoughts is indispensable if we want to achieve new goals.
24. No secret is better kept than the one everyone knows
If everyone knows a secret it will not be necessary to expose it, so that the secret in question is ignored and forgotten.
25. A life dedicated to making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life dedicated to doing nothing
To err is human, and implies that at least something has been tried to be done even if it went wrong. It’s always more useful than just imagining without trying to accomplish our goals.
26. The possibilities are numerous, once we decide to act and not to react
In the same line as the previous one, we are told that we must be proactive in life and not just react to what happens to us.
27. A gadget is like a wasp; if you can’t kill it at the first blow, you better not mess with it
Bernard Shaw warns us of the need to be careful with rumours and to bear in mind that if you don’t nip them in the bud and try to influence them without success, it is more likely that they will be considered true by others.
28. What intelligent man, if given a choice between living on roses or living without cabbages, would not run to secure the cabbages?
A phrase that expresses that the human being tends to look at the beautiful instead of the practical.
29. Just do what needs to be done. This may not be happiness, but it is greatness
This phrase expresses the need to do one’s duty.
30. He who has never had hope cannot despair
Despair implies that at some point there has been hope , even if it has not been fulfilled.
31. An achiever is one who gets up and looks for the circumstances he wants, and if he doesn’t find them he makes them
Being able to fight for and pursue what we want is what the author advocates as necessary to be a winner.
32. All great truths begin with blasphemy
We often find that scientific discoveries have met with disbelief and opposition from the population because they can counteract previously held beliefs about them.
33. Statistics is a science that shows that if my neighbor has two cars and I have none, we both have one
Statistics is a useful tool, but we must bear in mind that it will not always represent reality but an approximation or trend.
34. When two people are under the influence of the most violent, the most unhealthy, the most illusory, and the most fleeting of passions, they are asked to swear that they will continue in that excited, abnormal, and exhausting condition until death do them part
An author’s opinion on love, passion and marriage.
35. The white American relegates the black one to the condition of bootblack and deduces from this that it only serves to clean boots
It criticizes racism and the consideration that some are inferior to others without taking into account that if they play a minor role it is because they have been forcibly placed in that position. One of George Bernard Shaw’s most vindictive phrases .
36. There is always danger for those who fear it
The danger is always there. We must accept it and face it without being paralyzed.
37. Life doesn’t stop being funny because a man dies, nor does it stop being tragic because a man laughs
The world keeps turning regardless of what we do in it.
38. Humans are the only animals that I am completely and truly afraid of
The human being is capable of great wonders, but also of enormous monstrosities and crimes.
39. The soul is too precious a gift for God to give it to man for nothing. He must earn it, by being or doing something
A phrase that urges us to do something to deserve to be alive.
40. My way of joking is to tell the truth. It’s the funniest joke in the world
In a world so focused on appearances, the truth is often unexpected and unbelievable.
41. If you have an apple and I have an apple, and we exchange apples, then both you and I will still have an apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea, and we exchange ideas, then we both have two ideas
The author talks about the need to share thoughts, points of view and beliefs as an element for all of us to grow.
42. We have no more right to consume happiness without producing it, than to consume wealth without producing it
We should not only focus on receiving, but also on giving and generating happiness.
43. I prefer the state of constant progress, with the goal in front and not behind
It is necessary to forge goals throughout life , so that we can move forward and not get stuck in the past.
44. No one attacks a lion when the field is full of sheep
The author expresses that meekness and submission make it easier for those who want to take advantage of it, while strength of character makes it very difficult.
45. Give the man health and goals to achieve and he will not stop to think about whether or not he is happy
Reflecting on whether or not we are happy is something we do when we don’t know what to do or if we are doing the right thing. Setting challenging goals makes us focus on them and we can be happy without having to reflect on it.
46. A gentleman is someone who puts into the world more than he takes away
This sentence proposes the need for our passage through life to leave something positive in the world.
47. Try to get what you like or you will be forced to like what you are given
Phrase that indicates the need to fight for what we want .
48. After all, the wrong path always leads somewhere
Even if the path we take is not the one we would like, we can always draw fruit from it and it can take us to unsuspected places.
49. A man who has a mind and knows it can always beat ten men who don’t have one and don’t know it
The one who knows his limitations and his virtues is more capable of facing life than those who believe themselves to be much more than they are.
50. Success is not about never making a mistake, but about never making the same one a second time
The key would be to learn from experience so that we don’t have to trip over the same stone twice.
51. People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it
This sentence indicates that those who do not believe that certain things can be achieved should not stand in the way of others’ attempts to achieve what has never been achieved before.
52. The biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place
The author indicates that we lack the ability to communicate with each other , and we often take it for granted that others have understood or should see certain information.
53. The reading made Don Quixote a knight, but believing what he was reading made him a madman
The author points out the need not to take for granted everything we read or learn.
54. Man can climb to the highest peaks, but he cannot live there long
Everything that goes up has to come down.
55. People always blame circumstances.
Most people justify their lack of action or their current state by the circumstances in which they find themselves. However, although these will obviously have an influence, we can always try to find a means or other circumstances to achieve our goals.
56. It’s very easy to be respectable when you don’t have a chance to be something else
Sometimes we have no choice but to be or act in a certain way.
57. Almost everyone knows how to start, the difficult thing is to put an end to it
Starting something is relatively easy, but finishing it is not so easy. This is the case with malfunctioning relationships, for example.
58. Do not do to others as you would have them do to you. Your tastes may not be the same
For Bernard Shaw, we should not take for granted that we all think or feel the same , but we should take into account the great disparity of opinions and ways of seeing the world that may exist.
59. Justice lies in fairness, and only strangers can be fair
The existence of partiality or linkage with one of the parties is going to make it difficult for us to be completely fair.
60. When God created the world he saw it was good. What will he say now?
Shaw lived through a complex period, specifically the two World Wars and their consequences.