A bunch of pretty smart people throughout history think that we are our relationships with other people. Any person as an individual is meaningless, perhaps nonexistent is some senses. We are who we are only in combination with others: lovers, spouses, exes, blood family, in-laws, friends, enemies, neighbors, coworkers, bosses, acquaintances, your dentist, your mechanic, the cashier who rang you up at the grocery store, the guy who flipped you off at the stoplight. We’re inherently as formless as water, and all of our relationships comprise the glass that gives us shape. The quotes here examine this situation in general, as well as looking at apologizing, forgiving, listening, hating, enemies, friends, animals, children, parents, etc. A smattering of these quotes is below:

Man is a knot, a web, a mesh into which relationships are tied. Only those relationships matter.
—Antoine de Saint Exupéry

Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.
—Jane Howard

We are born for cooperation, as are the feet, the hands, the eyelids, and the upper and lower jaws.
—Marcus Aurelius

When you are in love with humanity, you are satisfied with yourself.
—Luigi Pirandello

If you want to change the way people respond to you, change the way you respond to people.
—Timothy Leary

He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself, for every man hath need to be forgiven.
—Edward Herbert, First Baron Herbert of Cherbury

If you had never condemned, you would not need to forgive.
—Anthony de Mello

Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.
—Carl Jung

I permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.  
―Booker T. Washington

I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.  
—James Baldwin

When you know how to listen, everyone is the guru.
—Ram Dass

What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?
―George Eliot

We’re all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn't. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.
—Charles Bukowski

The man who is brutally honest enjoys the brutality quite as much as the honesty. Possibly more.
—Richard Needham

Try to say nothing negative about anybody for three days, for forty-five days, for three months. See what happens to your life.
—Yoko Ono

The longer we live, the more we find we are like other persons.
—Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

To be good we must needs have suffered; but perhaps it is necessary to have caused suffering before we can become better.
—Maurice Maeterlinck


Pay attention to your enemies, for they are the first to discover your mistakes.

If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each person’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.
—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?
—Abraham Lincoln

It’s the friends that you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter.
—Marlene Dietrich

Friendship has splendors that love knows not.
—Mariama Bâ

Our perfect companions never have fewer than four feet.

The animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren; they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.
―Henry Beston

He that has no fools, knaves, or beggars in his family was begot by a flash of lightning.
―English proverb

If you think you’re enlightened, go spend a week with your family.
―Ram Dass

Family life! The United Nations is child’s play compared to the tugs and splits and need to understand and forgive in any family.
―May Sarton

Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children. Now I have six children and no theories.
―John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

The reason grandparents and grandchildren get along so well is that they have a common enemy.
―Sam Levenson

Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.
―Oscar Wilde

All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.
―Mitch Albom

The fundamental defect of fathers is that they want their children to be a credit to them.
—Bertrand Russell

The mother-child relationship is paradoxical and, in a sense, tragic. It requires the most intense love on the mother’s side, yet this very love must help the child grow away from the mother, and to become fully independent.
—Erich Fromm