93 Stoic Quotes on Morality and Being Good

Updated October 20, 2022

The ancient Stoics believed that the only real good is virtue and the only real evil is vice. While this might sound straightforward, contemporary practitioners of this practical philosophy might be left scratching their heads about how to live a moral life. These Stoic quotes on morality and being good explore precisely that question.

While the same general underlying principles guided the primary ancient Stoic philosophers, they all had their own style and approach when it came to discussing matters like morality, virtue, and goodness.

Let's check in with what Marcus Aurelius, Seneca the Younger, Epictetus, and other great minds have to say about what it means to be good.

Marcus Aurelius Quotes on Morality and Being Good

Marcus Aurelius discussed the notion that a person should be concerned with only two things: "acting justly and loving what is allotted one."

Aurelius has a way of saying profound things so simply that they all of a sudden appear obvious. Here are some of his greatest quotes about morality and being good.

marcus aurelius image and stoic quote about goodness

“Man is born for deeds of kindness."

– Marcus Aurelius

“Whatever anyone does or says, I must be good; just as if the emerald were always saying this: "Whatever anyone does or says, I must still be emerald, and keep my color."

– Marcus Aurelius

“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one."

– Marcus Aurelius

“Do not act as if you were going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over you. While you live, while it is in your power, be good."

– Marcus Aurelius

“Frequently consider the connection of all things in the universe. .. We should not say 'I am an Athenian' or 'I am a Roman' but 'I am a citizen of the Universe."

– Marcus Aurelius

“In the end, what would you gain from everlasting remembrance? Absolutely nothing. So what is left worth living for? This alone: justice in thought, goodness in action, speech that cannot deceive, and a disposition glad of whatever comes, welcoming it as necessary, as familiar, as flowing from the same source and fountain as yourself."

– Marcus Aurelius

“When you have done a good deed that another has had the benefit of, why do you need a third reward--as fools do--praise for having done well or looking for a favor in return."

– Marcus Aurelius

“Let it judge that nothing is either bad or good which can happen equally to the bad man and the good. For that which happens equally to him who lives contrary to nature and to him who lives according to nature, is neither according to nature nor contrary to nature."

– Marcus Aurelius

“One whose chief regard is for his own mind, and for the divinity within him and the service of its goodness, will strike no poses, utter no complaints, and crave neither for solitude nor yet for a crowd. Best of all, his life will be free from continual pursuing and avoiding."

– Marcus Aurelius

“Let goodness go with the doing."

– Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius Quotes on Virtue

Considering that virtue is the only good within the school of Stoicism, it's no wonder Aurelius has plenty to say on the matter.

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature."

– Marcus Aurelius

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones."

– Marcus Aurelius

“Remind oneself continually of one of those who practiced virtue in days gone by."

– Marcus Aurelius

“When you need encouragement, think of the qualities the people around you have: this one's energy, that one's modesty, another's generosity, and so on. Nothing is as encouraging as when virtues are visibly embodied in the people around us, when we're practically showered with them. It's good to keep this in mind."

– Marcus Aurelius

“Natural ability without education has more often raised a man to glory and virtue than education without natural ability."

– Marcus Aurelius

“Look within, for within is the wellspring of virtue, which will not cease flowing, if you cease not from digging."

– Marcus Aurelius

"Find joy in simplicity, self-respect, and indifference to what lies between virtue and vice. Love the human race. Follow the divine."

– Marcus Aurelius

"Take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature."

– Marcus Aurelius

"Just consider, my friend, whether a pure spirit and virtue are anything other than saving your life and being saved. Perhaps we need to discard the idea of longevity and cease loving this life, instead committing these things to God and, believing that no one ever escapes destiny, to consider, with that in mind, how we may live the best possible life in the time that remains."

– Marcus Aurelius

"The happiness and unhappiness of the rational, social animal depends not on what he feels but on what he does; just as his virtue and vice consist not in feeling but in doing."

– Marcus Aurelius

"Let there be freedom from perturbations with respect to the things which come from the external cause; and let there be justice in the things done by virtue of the internal cause, that is, let there be movement and action terminating in this, in social acts, for this is according to thy nature."

– Marcus Aurelius

"A great estate is a great disadvantage to those who do not know how to use it, for nothing is more common than to see wealthy persons live scandalously and miserably; riches do them no service in order to virtue and happiness; therefore 'tis precept and principle, not an estate, that makes a man good for something."

– Marcus Aurelius

"Adorn thyself with simplicity and with indifference towards the things which lie between virtue and vice. Love mankind. Follow God. The poet says that Law rules all. And it is enough to remember that law rules all."

– Marcus Aurelius

"Above, below, all around are the movements of the elements. But the motion of virtue is in none of these: it is something more divine, and advancing by a way hardly observed it goes happily on its road."

– Marcus Aurelius

Epictetus Stoic Quotes on Morality

One of the things that is notable about Epictetus is just how consistent he was. Primarily focused on personal freedom, integrity, and self-management, Epictetus had a huge influence on the "popular moralistic tradition."

"There is nothing good or evil save in the will."

– Epictetus

"It is difficulties that show what men are. For the future, in case of any difficulty, remember that God, like a gymnastic trainer, has pitted you against a rough antagonist. For what end? That you may be an Olympic conqueror; and this cannot be without toil."

– Epictetus

"The cause of all human evils is the not being able to apply general principles to special cases."

– Epictetus

Epictetus Quotes on Virtue

As a quick refresher, virtue in the world of philosophy is a quality or trait that is understood to be morally good. Epictetus gives a lot of straightforward advice and guidance about what it means to be virtuous and how we can realistically work to be virtuous in our everyday lives.

epictetus stoic quote on being good

"To live a life of virtue, you have to become consistent, even when it isn't convenient, comfortable, or easy."

– Epictetus

"Law intends indeed to do service to human life, but it is not able when men do not choose to accept her services; for it is only in those who are obedient to her that she displays her special virtue."

– Epictetus

"The soul that companies with virtue is like an ever-flowing source. It is a pure, clear, and wholesome draught, sweet, rich and generous of its store, that injures not, neither destroys."

– Epictetus

"If virtue promises happiness, prosperity and peace, then progress in virtue is progress in each of these for to whatever point the perfection of anything brings us, progress is always an approach toward it."

– Epictetus

"A soul which is conversant with virtue is like an ever flowing source, for it is pure and tranquil and potable and sweet and communicative (social) and rich and harmless and free from mischief."

– Epictetus

"It has been ordained that there be summer and winter, abundance and dearth, virtue and vice, and all such opposites for the harmony of the whole, and (Zeus) has given each of us a body, property, and companions."

– Epictetus

"A soul that makes virtue its companion is like an over-flowing well, for it is clean and pellucid, sweet and wholesome, open to all, rich, blameless and indestructible."

– Epictetus

"To live a life of virtue, match up your thoughts, words, and deeds."

– Epictetus

"Freedom and slavery, the one is the name of virtue, and the other of vice, and both are acts of the will."

– Epictetus

"There is only one thing for which God has sent me into the world, and that is to develop every kind of virtue or strength, and there is nothing in all the world that I cannot use for this purpose."

– Epictetus

"Be free from grief not through insensibility like the irrational animals, nor through want of thought like the foolish, but like a man of virtue by having reason as the consolation of grief."

– Epictetus

Seneca the Younger Quotes on Being Good

More poetic and less directly instructive than Epictetus, Seneca the Younger offers some perspective on what it really means to be good in this life.

seneca image and stoic quote on morality

"Nature does not bestow virtue; to be good is an art."

– Seneca

"It is difficult to bring people to goodness with lessons, but it is easy to do so by example."

– Seneca

"Straightforwardness and simplicity are in keeping with goodness. The things that are essential are acquired with little bother; it is the luxuries that call for toil and effort. To want simply what is enough nowadays suggests to people primitiveness and squalor."

– Seneca

"The largest part of goodness is the will to become good."

– Seneca

"It is not goodness to be better than the worst."

– Seneca

Seneca Quotes on Virtue

In some of the letters of Seneca (for example, letters 120 and 66,) are particularly concerned with some of the more technical aspects of virtue and what it means to be good. His thoughts on virtue, however, are sprinkled across his writings, and we can pluck out quotes like flowers from a field to help guide us in our attempt to be virtuous day to day.

"The greatest man is he who chooses right with the most invincible resolution; who resists to sorest temptation from within and without; who bears the heaviest burdens cheerfully; who is calmest in storms, and most fearless under menaces and frowns; whose reliance on truth, on virtue, and on God is most unfaltering."

– Seneca

"It's a vice to trust all, and equally a vice to trust none."

– Seneca

"We should every night call ourselves to an account: What infirmity have I mastered today? What passions opposed? What temptation resisted? What virtue acquired? Our vices will abate of themselves if they be brought every day to the shrift."

– Seneca

"It is easy enough to arouse in a listener a desire for what is honorable; for in every one of us nature has laid the foundations or sown the seeds of the virtues. We are born to them all, all of us, and when a person comes along with the necessary stimulus, then those qualities of the personality are awakened, so to speak, from their slumber."

– Seneca

"Virtue is nothing else than right reason."

– Seneca

"Of all the felicities, the most charming is that of a firm and gentle friendship. It sweetens all our cares, dispels our sorrows, and counsels us in all extremities. Nay, if there were no other comfort in it than the pare exercise of so generous a virtue, even for that single reason a man would not be without it; it is a sovereign antidote against all calamities - even against the fear of death itself."

– Seneca

"Crime when it succeeds is called virtue."

– Seneca

"Successful crime is dignified with the name of virtue; the good become the slaves of the wicked; might makes right; fear silences the power of the law."

– Seneca

"Epicurus says, "gratitude is a virtue that has commonly profit annexed to it." And where is the virtue that has not? But still the virtue is to be valued for itself, and not for the profit that attends it."

– Seneca

"We are born to lose and to perish, to hope and to fear, to vex ourselves and others; and there is no antidote against a common calamity but virtue; for the foundation of true joy is in the conscience."

– Seneca

"Virtue with some is nothing but successful temerity."

– Seneca

"Virtue depends partly upon training and partly upon practice; you must learn first, and then strengthen your learning by action. If this be true, not only do the doctrines of wisdom help us but the precepts also, which check and banish our emotions by a sort of official decree."

– Seneca

"To preserve the life of citizens, is the greatest virtue in the father of his country."

– Seneca

"If virtue precede us every step will be safe."

– Seneca

"As gratitude is a necessary, and a glorious virtue, so also it is an obvious, a cheap, and an easy one; so obvious that wherever there is life there is a place for it; so cheap, that the covetous man may be gratified without expense, and so easy that the sluggard may be so likewise without labor."

– Seneca

"Virtue depends partly upon training and partly upon practice; you must learn first, and then strengthen your learning by actions."

– Seneca

"No man is born wise; but wisdom and virtue require a tutor; though we can easily learn to be vicious without a master."

– Seneca

"Virtue needs a director and guide. Vice can be learned even without a teacher."

– Seneca

"Calamity is virtue's opportunity."

– Seneca

"Virtue hath no virtue if it be not impugned; then appeareth how great it is, of what value and power it is, when by patience it approveth what it works."

– Seneca

"Virtue is shut out from no one; she is open to all, accepts all, invites all, gentlemen, freedmen, slaves, kings, and exiles; she selects neither house nor fortune; she is satisfied with a human being without adjuncts."

– Seneca

"Why do people not confess vices? It is because they have not yet laid them aside. It is a waking person only who can tell their dreams."

– Seneca

"Virtue is that perfect good, which is the complement of a happy life; the only immortal thing that belongs to mortality."

– Seneca

Musonius Rufus Quotes on Being Good

Gaius Musonius Rufus is not nearly as well known these days as Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus. He has even been called "the overlooked Stoic."

When we talk about Stoicism and morality, it's hard not to take a look at the writings of Rufus, which largely focus on ethics and morality. He talks about how we can attain virtue and what constitutes right and wrong action.

Rufus was quite a well-known voice of Stoicism in the 1st century and was called "the Roman Socrates" in the 1947 book by Cora Lutz.

“We begin to lose our hesitation to do immoral things when we lose our hesitation to speak of them.”

– Musonius Rufus

“You will earn the respect of all if you begin by earning the respect of yourself. Don't expect to encourage good deeds in people conscious of your own misdeeds.”

– Musonius Rufus

“If you accomplish something good with hard work, the labor passes quickly, but the good endures; if you do something shameful in pursuit of pleasure, the pleasure passes quickly, but the shame endures.”

– Musonius Rufus

“If we were to measure what is good by how much pleasure it brings, nothing would be better than self-control- if we were to measure what is to be avoided by its pain, nothing would be more painful than lack of self-control.”

– Musonius Rufus

“For mankind, evil is injustice and cruelty and indifference to a neighbor’s trouble, while virtue is brotherly love and goodness and justice and beneficence and concern for the welfare of your neighbor.”

– Musonius Rufus

“To accept injury without a spirit of savage resentment-to show ourselves merciful toward those who wrong us-being a source of good hope to them-is characteristic of a benevolent and civilized way of life.”

– Musonius Rufus

Other Stoic Quotes on Morality and Being Good

Let's take a look at what the founder of Stoicism, as well as some Stoic-minded philosophers throughout history, have to say on the topic of morality and being good.

zeno image and quote about goodness

"All the good are friends of one another."

– Zeno of Citium

"All things are parts of one single system, which is called nature; the individual life is good when it is in harmony with nature."

– Zeno of Citium

"It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare."

– Mark Twain

"About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after."

– Ernest Hemingway

"Always do what is right. It will gratify half of mankind and astound the other."

– Mark Twain

There are those who believe that a new modernity demands a new morality. What they fail to consider is the harsh reality that there is no such thing as a new morality. There is only one morality . All else is immorality.

– Theodore Roosevelt

"The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live."

– Ayn Rand

"The most important human endeavor is the striving for morality in our actions. Our inner balance and even our very existence depend on it. Only morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity to life."

– Albert Einstein

"It is true that genius takes its rise out of the mountains of rectitude; that all beauty and power which men covet are somehow born out of that Alpine district; that any extraordinary degree of beauty in man or woman involves a moral charm."

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

"If there is one tendency of the day which more than any other is unhealthy and undesirable, it is the tendency to deify mere "smartness," unaccompanied by a sense of moral accountability. We shall never make our republic what it should be until as a people we thoroughly understand and put in practice the doctrine that success is abhorrent if attained by the sacrifice of the fundamental principles of morality."

– Theodore Roosevelt

"Without freedom there can be no morality."

– Carl Jung

"Our whole life is startlingly moral. There is never an instant's truce between virtue and vice."

– Henry David Thoreau

"There can be no high civility without a deep morality, though it may not always call itself by that name."

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

"We are spinning our own fates, good or evil, and never to be undone. Every smallest stroke of virtue or of vice leaves its never so little scar. ...Nothing we ever do is, in strict scientific literalness, wiped out."

– William James

"There never was a strong character that was not made strong by discipline of the will; there never was a strong people that did not rank subordination and discipline among the signal virtues. Subjection to moods is the mark of a deteriorating morality. There is no baser servitude than that of the man whose caprices are his masters, and a nation composed of such men could not long preserve its liberties."

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Don't sell out your virtue and your value for something you think you want. Judas got the money, but he threw it all away and hung himself because he was so unhappy with himself."

– Jim Rohn

"Morality is the basis of things and truth is the substance of all morality."

– Mahatma Gandhi

"A man does what he must - in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures - and that is the basis of all human morality."

– John F. Kennedy

"A system of morality which is based on relative emotional values is a mere illusion, a thoroughly vulgar conception which has nothing sound in it and nothing true. "

– Socrates

"The 'morality of compromise' sounds contradictory. Compromise is usually a sign of weakness, or an admission of defeat. Strong men don't compromise, it is said, and principles should never be compromised."

– Andrew Carnegie

There is tremendous value in consulting with the quotes of great minds like Marcus Aurelius, Seneca the Younger, Epictetus, and Musonius Rufus. Beyond the great ancient Stoic philosophers, there are many genius individuals that have been greatly influenced by the ideas of these men throughout history.

Focusing on Stoic quotes one topic at a time can help us to apply Stoicism to our daily lives. This means with each day, we can be one step closer to living a life of virtue that is in accordance with nature, and therefore be one step closer to a life with a good flow.

Don't forget to look at our library of Stoic quote articles to learn what the Stoics and other great minds thought about topics such as gratitude, overcoming difficulty, life, death, happiness, and anxiety.

Written by: Sophia Merton
Sophia received her BA from Vassar College and has always maintained a deep interest in the question of how best to live one’s life. She hopes to help others understand how they can apply Stoicism in their day-to-day lives in order to become the person they want to be, embrace the present moment, pursue their purposes, and rid themselves of unnecessary anxiety.

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