We make a person what we think of them.

from The Immoralist by André Gide page 189 fiction ~1 min read

Poverty is a slave-driver; in return for food, men give their grudging labor; all work that is not joyous is wretched, I thought, and I paid many of them to rest. "Don't work," I said, "you hate it." In imagination, I bestowed on each of them that leisure without with which nothing can blossom– neither vice nor art.

Marceline did not mistake my thoughts; when I came back from the port, I did not conceal from her what sort of wretches I had been frequenting. Every kind of thing goes to the making of man. Marceline knew well enough what I was trying so furiously to discover; and as I reproached her for being too apt to credit everyone she knew with special virtues of her own invention, "You," she said, "are never satisfied until you have made people exhibit some vice. Don't you understand that by looking at any particular trait, we develop and exaggerate it? And that we make a man become what we think him?"

I could have wished she were wrong, but I had to admit that the worst instinct of every human being appeared to me the sincerest. But then what did I mean by sincere?[1]


  1. The general idea here is that we choose to see whatever we'd like to see. The sum whole of a person is hard to quantify, and when we assign labels such as "good" or "bad", "kind" or "mean" we inherently deny the complexity and opposition of those values that are still found in the person. Therefore, we make people as we think (and act upon) them as. ↩︎

—André Gide, The Immoralist, p. 189