20 Life-Changing Lessons to Learn from Diogenes the Cynic
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Diogenes the Cynic wanted human beings to reclaim their freedom and dignity and live with honesty and self-respect. He was often seen on the streets of Athens carrying a lamp in his hands in broad daylight and saying: “I am looking for an honest man.”

Diogenes the Cynic

Diogenes the Cynic was an ancient Greek philosopher who wasn’t afraid to speak his Truth, but also a FREE man who spoke harshly of those who were willing to give up their freedom and liberty for temporary pleasures and safety. (I guess things haven’t changed much in the last 2400 years).

He wanted human beings to reclaim their freedom and dignity and live with honesty and self-respect. When ‘Alexander the Great found the philosopher looking attentively at a pile of human bones. Diogenes explained, “I am searching for the bones of your father but cannot distinguish them from those of a slave.‘ And ‘when Plato styled him a dog, “Quite true,” he said, ” for I come back again and again to those who have sold me.”

“But truly, if I were not Alexander, I wish I were Diogenes.” and Diogenes replied, “If I wasn’t Diogenes, I would be wishing to be Diogenes too.”

Seeing that Athens had become corrupt with vanity, greed, and ignorance he would walk through the streets of Athens carrying a lamp in his hands in broad daylight and saying: “I am looking for an honest man.”

He wanted to find an honest man. And it is my hope that his words will inspire all of us to become ‘that honest man.’

20 Life-Changing Lessons to Learn from Diogenes the Cynic

20 Life-Changing Lessons to Learn from Diogenes the Cynic
Photo taken at the Vatican Museum, Rome, Italy

1. The foundation of every state is the education of its youth. ~ Diogenes the Cynic

2. Stay away from flatterers, for they will devour you. 

“It is better to fall in with crows than with flatterers; for in the one case you are devoured when dead, in the other case while alive.” ~ Diogenes of Sinope

3. Circumstances don’t make a man, they reveal him as he is. 

“The sun, too, shines into cesspools and is not polluted.” ~ Diogenes of Sinope

4. A wise man knows that he knows nothing.

“I know nothing, except the fact of my ignorance.” ~ Diogenes of Sinope

5. It takes a wise man to discover a wise man. ~ Diogenes the Cynic

Life-Changing lessons
Entrance to the Santa Chiara Basilica in Assisi, Italy

“Wise kings generally have wise counselors; and he must be a wise man himself who is capable of distinguishing one.” ~ Diogenes of Sinope

6. Fear is the mark of the slave.

Friends of Diogenes wanted to ransom him, whereupon he called them simpletons; “for“, said he, “lions are not the slaves of those who feed them, but rather those who feed them are at the mercy of the lions: for fear is the mark of the slave, whereas wild beasts make men afraid of them.”

7. To be great is to encounter violent opposition from mediocre minds.

“It is not that I am mad, it is only that my head is different from yours.” ~ Diogenes of Sinope

8. What others think of you does not matter.

“When some one said, “Most people laugh at you,” his reply was, “And so very likely do the asses at them; but as they don’t care for the asses, so neither do I care for them.”

9. The bodies of those that eat much are full of diseases.

“As houses well stored with provisions are likely to be full of mice, so the bodies of those that eat much are full of diseases.” ~ Diogenes of Sinope

10. He has the most who is most content with the least. ~ Diogenes the Cynic

20 Life-Changing Lessons to Learn from Diogenes the Cynic
Beautiful man and his dog in Assisi, Italy. – the hometown of St. Francis of Assisi

11. He who gives his freedom for safety gets none of them.

“Plato said “If you had paid your respects to Dionysus, you would not be washing lettuces now,” to which, with equal calmness, Diogenes replied, “If you had washed lettuces, Plato, you would not have had to pay your respects to Dionysus.”

“Aristotle has to dine when Philip thinks fit; Diogenes can dine at any time he chooses.”

A philosopher named Aristippus, who had quite willingly sucked up to Dionysus and won himself a spot at his court, saw Diogenes cooking lentils for a meal. “If you would only learn to compliment Dionysus, you wouldn’t have to live on lentils.” The reply “But if you would only learn to live on lentils, you wouldn’t have to flatter Dionysus.”

12. A child can teach us much about the plainness of living.

Seeing a child drinking from his hands, Diogenes threw away his cup and remarked, “A child has beaten me in plainness of living.”

13. There is only a finger’s difference between a wise man and a fool.

There is only a finger’s difference between a wise man and a fool. ~ Diogenes of Sinope

14. Let no one take from you what they cannot give.

“I have nothing to ask but that you would remove to the other side, that you may not, by intercepting the sunshine, take from me what you cannot give.” ~ Diogenes Of Sinope

15. No man is hurt but by himself. ~ Diogenes of Sinope

20 Life-Changing Lessons to Learn from Diogenes the Cynic
Photo taken in Rome, Italy

16. If you take no notice of the practice of virtue and study only those who write about it, it’s of no use.

“A student asked to borrow a book, he replied: “You are a silly man. If you wanted figs you wouldn’t be satisfied with painted ones. But you take no notice of the practice of virtue and study only those who write about it.”

17. A man should live with his superiors as he does with his fire

“A man should live with his superiors as he does with his fire; not too near, lest he burn; not too far off, lest he freeze.”

18. The majority of people are more impressed by Circus than by Virtue.

“Discourse on virtue and they pass by in droves. Whistle and dance the shimmy, and you’ve got an audience.”

19. To master yourself is true power.

After being captured by pirates, Diogenes was asked what he can do and he replied: “I can govern men; therefore sell me to one who wants a master.”

20. You will become a teacher of yourself when for the same things that you blame others, you also blame yourself. ~ Diogenes Of Sinope

Life-Changing lessons
Photo taken in Rome, Italy

BONUS: Diogenes of Sinope Quotes

“I am Alexander the Great,” said the monarch to Diogenes. “And I am Diogenes the Cynic, called a dog because I fawn on those who give me anything, I yelp at those who refuse, and I set my teeth in rascals.” replied Diogenes.

“But truly, if I were not Alexander, I wish I were Diogenes.” and Diogenes replied, “If I wasn’t Diogenes, I would be wishing to be Diogenes too.”

“One original thought is worth a thousand mindless quotings.”~Diogenes the Cynic

Plato had defined Man as an animal, biped and featherless, and was applauded. Diogenes plucked a fowl and brought it into the lecture-room with the words, “Here is Plato’s man.”

He was breakfasting in the market place, and the bystanders gathered round him with cries of ” dog.” ” It is you who are dogs,” cried he, ” when you stand round and watch me at my breakfast.”

When someone reminded him that the people of Sinope had sentenced him to exile, he said, “And I sentenced them to stay at home.” ~ Diogenes Of Sinope

‘Once he saw the officials of a temple leading away someone who had stolen a bowl belonging to the treasurers, and said, “The great thieves are leading away the little thief.”’ ~ Diogenes Of Sinope

When asked how he would like to be buried. He replied ‘face downwards’, when asked why, he explained that the Macedonians were rising in power so rapidly that the world would shortly be turned upside down and he would then be the right way up.

** What about you? Out of these many lessons, was there any that touched your heart or caught your attention? If there is, make sure you share your comment in the comment section below 

~love, Luminita 💫

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Luminita D. Saviuc

Luminita, the Founder of PurposeFairy, is an enthusiastic student of the arts, psychology, and spirituality. Her acclaimed blog post, 15 Things You Should Give Up To Be Happy , was shared by over 1.3 million people on Facebook. Later on, it became the heart of her book, 15 Things You Should Give Up To Be Happy., book that was published by Penguin Random House. For more details check out the 15 Things You Should Give Up To Be Happy Book Page.

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