I am looking for a proverb describing not to stoop oneself to another person's "level".

A similar proverb is

"If you lie down with a dog, you'll get up with fleas"

but this is not exactly what I have in mind as according to wikipedia, this proverb appears to focus more on choosing "your company" well (to be associated with), which hinges on the connotation that dogs are human's best friends.

According to wikipedia

The quote has a large almost universally agreed meaning of "You should be cautious of the company you keep. Associating with those of low reputation may not only lower your own but also lead you astray by the faulty assumptions, premises and data of the unscrupulous (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:If_you_lie_down_with_dogs,_you_get_up_with_fleas)


The proverb(s) I am looking for would portray the others (with a presumptive lower level of standard) more as enemies, not as friends

  • What you asked for is already an idiom. Or are you specifically asking for a proverb? – Jason Bassford Jul 26 '18 at 20:28
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    The connotation of "dog" is not as a friend. "dog" can indicate a worthless, cowardly or useless person. Calling someone a "dog" is not a nice thing to say. So I think your proverb will do fine. – James K Jul 26 '18 at 20:43
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    @JamesK - Yes, but in the context of "Lie down with dogs..." dogs is just a metaphor for the company you keep; it isn't explicitly calling your associates worthless, cowardly, or useless. – stangdon Jul 26 '18 at 20:54
  • @jasonBassford, did you refer to "stoop to" as an idiom or "the dog proverb" as an idiom ? I am looking for the latter. – B Chen Jul 26 '18 at 21:00
  • The idiom I was referring to (which I provided a link for) was don't stoop to their level. But this tells me you're looking for an actual proverb. – Jason Bassford Jul 26 '18 at 21:21

An alternative idiom that means the same thing as "not stoop to their level" is "to take the high road."

You misunderstand the connotation of "dog" in the saying "Lie down with dogs; get up with fleas." It is not at all refering to dogs as man's best friend, but to the notion that you will acquire the undesirable attributes of your close companions. Sleep in a kennel, and you will get bitten by fleas.

  • I agree. 'Lying down with the dogs' here just means allying yourself to people who are dubious (for whatever reason). So basically it's saying that if you stoop to someone else's level, you somehow damage yourself. (It's a bit insulting to dogs when I think about it, but dogs don't have a lobby.) – S Conroy Jul 26 '18 at 21:35

Here are some possibilities:

"Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty, and the pig loves it!" https://quoteinvestigator.com/2017/07/08/pig/

"Don't wrestle with a chimney sweep or you will get covered with grime." https://quoteinvestigator.com/2017/07/06/chimney/

"Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time, and annoys the pig." --Robert Heinlein https://quoteinvestigator.com/2017/07/10/sing-pig/

"Never play chess with a pigeon. It knocks the pieces over, craps on the board, and flies back to its flock to claim victory." https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Pigeon_chess

"Never argue with an idiot. They might be doing the same." https://www.reddit.com/r/quotes/comments/1f1kkg/never_argue_with_an_idiot_they_will_bring_you/

"Never argue with an idiot. Onlookers won't be able to tell the difference." https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/66460/origin-of-do-not-argue-with-idiots

"Never argue with an idiot. They will bring you down to their level and beat you with experience." https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/310811/is-there-an-english-idiom-that-is-equivalent-to-throwing-stones-at-sewage-will?noredirect=1&lq=1

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces." -- Matthew 7:6 http://biblehub.com/niv/matthew/7.htm

"Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him." -- Proverbs 26:4 http://biblehub.com/niv/proverbs/26.htm

"Don't doubt yourself. That's what haters are for." --Turcois Ominek http://www.wiseoldsayings.com/haters-quotes/


The proverb(s) I am looking for would portray the others more as enemies.

Focusing on the "enemies" aspect, from Nietsche, Beyond Good and Evil:

He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.

Variant Translation: Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster

BTW, it goes on to say "And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.", which is also a great quote.

  • can you elaborate on the abyss quote? It's not immediately clear to me what "the abyss also gazes into you" implies. – B Chen Jul 26 '18 at 21:11
  • @BChen , I think the more direct answer to your question about "dogs" was just the "monster" quote. In the following line, about the abyss, he is changing the topic. My interpretation of that part, is if you philosophize too much (stare into the abyss), it becomes like fighting monsters... – Sam Jul 26 '18 at 21:20

In Bacchae (The Quotations Page), Euripides said:

Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish.

This could be taken to mean that it's not worth your time dealing with people who won't understand you—or who are "beneath" you.

All is accomplishes is to waste your time. (Or, as in your own proverb, gives you fleas.)


Let's make a few up:

Only a savior should seek out sinners.

And here's one in honor of Shark Week:

Swim with sharks and you'll get bit.

And here's one for those in high office:

Enemies make lousy friends.


You should have googled it. Some are not bad:

You can always stoop and pick up nothing.

Don't stoop to their level—living well is the best revenge.

We cannot be so low that Christ will not stoop to reach us.

To keep your character intact you cannot stoop to filthy acts. It makes it easier to stoop the next time.

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