It is far better to be alone than to be in bad company. – George Washington

Life is a mystery where we find different types of people. Some of them are good people while others may not be that good. We can see all kinds of people around our lives but it is up to us what type of people we choose to go along with. Some people end up in a good company and live a good life while others end up in a bad company where they ruin their own lives. For this reason, a quote by George Washington is important to remember which goes like “It is far better to be alone than to be in bad company”

George Washington

About George Washington

George Washington was the first President of the United States of America who served between 1789 and 1797. Washington is known to be a revolutionary leader for the United States as he led the Patriot forces to win the American Revolutionary War. He also played an important role in preparing the First Constitution of the United States. Experts suggest that it is because of him and his outstanding policies that the US had a good start and the economy emerged powerfully in no time. For his exceptional work toward the betterment of America, he is called the “Father of the Nation”.

He went under certain wars against hostile Native American nations. As a President, he created a strong financial government and embraced neutrality. His works have always been appreciated by the juniors as well as the seniors. He was also known as “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen”. He was often criticized too but he always believed in the fact that “It is far better to be alone than to be in bad company”.

Origin of this Quote

The origin of this quote is widely known to be by George Washington. However, it is really one of the 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation. It is believed that George Washington penned down these rules by hand when he was a teenager. Since the rules were discovered penned in Washington’s handwriting most people believe that he wrote them himself. Scholars today assume that Washington most likely transcribed the rules as handwriting practice. The 110 principles were created on the basis of regulations written by French Jesuits in 1595. These famous 110 rules were then translated into English for the first time in 1640. Mount Vernon has compiled a list of the 110 suggestions and has each one displayed on its webpage. 

American dollar bill with the picture of George Washington

Meaning of This Quote

There isn’t just one point highlighted by George Washington in this quote, rather there are quite a few meanings that can be interpreted. 

Bad Company is a Bad Personality

One of the major things many fail to understand is why a bad company is wrong even if you are right. If you have a bad company of friends, you might be turning like them without even noticing. A company in which you stay will affect you in either a bad way or a good way. You might not notice but others close to you will definitely see a personality change in you. For example, if you are in a company where people are aggressive, moody, and have a bad attitude towards others, you will eventually develop the same habits yourself. Once you talk to others, they will feel that you have changed in a negative way.

One major real-life example can be the people who start consuming different types of drugs. No one has a sudden need or urge of consuming drugs directly. It is the people around us who tell us to do so. Peer pressure is a real thing and it makes us do different types of rights and wrongs. You may have not been consuming drugs, smoking, or drinking excessive alcohol always, but it happened because the people around you were doing all of this. They persuaded you to do the same. 

We can see many examples where people say that they got into drugs because others around them were also doing it and convinced them to do so. Bad companies will never say that drugs are bad. Instead, they will say something like “everybody does it so it isn’t harmful in any way”. On the other hand, a good company will always advise you against it despite how many people are doing it. 

Man taking a dose of drugs

It’s not Long Lasting

A key aspect to remember is that bad company will not last for long. The ones who don’t have good company with them only have temporary people around you. They will not be the ones who stay with you in your difficult times. Bad company is nothing but a hoax or a dream that people live for a short time and realize the bad consequences later on. 

Take this example. If there are two groups with one having bullies and the other having considerate people. The bullies are not going to care for you if you have any problems, they won’t be standing with you providing any form of support rather they will be mocking you and making fun of you. On the other hand, a group of considerate people will be the total opposite of it. They will stand by you in the tough time, help you get out of it, listen to you, and support you during a tough time. As the famous saying goes, a friend in need is a friend indeed. This means that the bad company isn’t your friend in any way, rather a supportive person is actually your friend.

Neutrality is Better than Negativity

A key focus of this quote is on the principle of negativity and neutrality. Staying alone is neutral whereas staying in a bad company is considered to be negative. The quote inspires us to stay neutral, even if difficult, rather than to choose the negative path. The neutrality aspect of this quote focuses on the fact that even what would appear to us as wrong might be just a neutral thing whereas something that appears to be good (bad company) will be a negative thing. Therefore, alone may not be positive but not negative either. However, the bad company is truly negative so it must not be chosen. 

A group of people

Never Settle for Less

This quote also focuses on the fact that one must not compromise on their standards. If you have the option to have a company that isn’t a good one, or if you have the option to stay alone, you should stay alone even if it is painful, but never settle for less. Settling for less would mean that you compromise your personality, habits, and other aspects as well. No matter how harsh it is, one must keep in mind that they shouldn’t settle for less as it is harmful in the long term. 


Ultimately, what’s better? Living alone or living with bad company? According to this quote, one should always be focused on quality, not quantity. The quality of people around you defines your life, your goals, and your thought process as well. If you are surrounded by people who don’t belong to a sound company, you will eventually be like them but if you stay neutral and wait for them, the right people will surround you. Quotes by Mahatma Gandhi are also quite focused on life in numerous ways.