Leo Tolstoy
· The Circle of Reading
Translated by Dmitry Fadeyev

January 11

Self-improvement is impossible without humility. “Why should I improve myself when I’m already good enough?”

1

The higher you rise, the more you should humble yourself. Many rise to great heights and live in glory, but mysteries are only revealed to the lowly. Do not seek things that are too difficult and beyond your power. Respectfully think about what has been prescribed to you. Do not be curious about the things you do not need. What has been revealed to you is already more than you can understand.

Many are deceived by their vain opinions, so do not brag about the knowledge that you do not have.

— Ecclesiasticus (apocryphal)

2

But Jesus summoned them, and said, “You know that the rulers of the nations lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. Whoever desires to be first among you shall be your bondservant, even as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

— Matthew 20:25–28

3

The one who can be abused and be undisturbed and not return abuse has won a great prize in Life’s Purpose.

— Ginevra-Lake

4

Some of your friends criticize you, others praise you; get closer to those who criticize you and further away from those who praise you.

— The Talmud

5

Occupy a station in life that is lower than the one that befits you. It is better to be told to ascend than to descend.

The one who exalts himself is humbled by God, but the one who humbles himself is exalted by God.

— The Talmud

6

Try at all times to destroy within yourself every desire for power, do not seek glory and praises—all this can only ruin your soul. Take care not to think that you have special virtues which others do not.

— From “Devout Thoughts”

7

Although the sage is strict with himself, he asks nothing of others. He is satisfied with his lot in life and never blames Heaven, never blames others for his fate—which is why, being lowly, he submits to his destiny. An unwise human being, by seeking earthly blessings, endangers himself.

When an arrow misses its mark, the archer blames himself and not someone else. This is how the sage acts also.

— Confucius

8

But he who is greatest among you will be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

— Matthew 23:11–12


Recall all the bad things you have done. This will help you avoid doing what is bad. On the other hand, recalling the good things you have done will only get in the way of your doing good.