To be cruel is Disposed to give pain to others, in body or mind; willing or pleased to torment, vex or afflict; inhuman; destitute of pity, compassion or kindness; fierce; ferocious; savage; barbarous; hardhearted; applied to persons or their dispositions. Inhuman; barbarous; savage; causing pain, grief or distress; exerted in tormenting, vexing or afflicting.Webster’s American Dictionary
  Cruelty is Inhumanity; a savage or barbarous disposition or temper, which is gratified in giving unnecessary pain or distress to others; barbarity; applied to persons; as the cruelty of savages; the cruelty and envy of the people. A barbarous deed; any act of a human being which inflicts unnecessary pain; any act intended to torment, vex or afflict, or which actually torments or afflicts, without necessity; wrong; injustice; oppression.Webster’s American Dictionary
  Synonyms for cruel include barbaric, barbarous, brutal, fiendish, heartless, inhuman, inhumane, sadistic, savage, vicious.

“The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.”—Proverbs 11:17

  Cruelty, which is any behaviour that causes pain or suffering to others, especially deliberately, is a sin. Cruelty is the antithesis of love, and a terrible perversion of the Love principle. The debts for cruelty is paid only when the last trace of the scar has faded.

Edna Lister on Cruelty

Intellect, too highly refined and cold, breeds clever cruelty.—Edna Lister, Will, October 17, 1934.

Know that each is in his own stage or degree of development and call that stage good. He may be making grave errors, breaking all the laws of God and man. He may express in a vicious and cruel manner, but if he has not killed that divine spark of soul, he has the chance to lift himself out of the mire to become a worthy son of the Father.—Edna Lister, April 22, 1947.

It is shameful that any stimulus of the outer can cause you to descend into meanness of soul. Law allows no excuse or justification for cruelty ever. It is disgraceful to excuse or justify cruel words or actions. Our soul training is rigid, and clashes with the self. All practice and discipline, whether physical, mental or emotional will give release and relief. All unlikeness to an absolute pattern will slough, until a self-cauterization takes place within.—Edna Lister, July 5, 1947.

Saul of Tarsus had been cruel to Jesus’ followers, both men and women, based on his religious beliefs. Many have been cruel to others based on mistaken loyalty to some Bible verse taken out of context, but they do not really know God.—Edna Lister, Your Devotion to God, December 16, 1956.

When one expresses cruelty and revenge, he has enjoyed the role of dictator. If he had not liked it, he would have quit doing it. When you stop liking a role, you will not continue to express it. When you loathe it, how fast you will lift it!—Edna Lister, July 23, 1955.

You must clean up others’ meanness. Look at them whenever they are cruel and mentally say, You are good and perfect, and this is good. Speak these declarations aloud when you can.—Edna Lister, July 23, 1955.

The law of harmony is as inflexible as the law of gravitation, and it does not tolerate laziness, waste of words, idleness or cruelty.—Edna Lister, The 33 Degrees of Soul Conquering, November 3, 1959.

Torture of self often degenerates into torture of others to make them more religious. All brainwashing and cruelty spring from such practices.—Edna Lister, When Prayer Is at Work, June 4, 1961.

The world is facing the crucifixion of all self. Hatred is fighting its way to the surface in ugliness and unbearable cruelty, even to a tribe being massacred. God will exalt those who die having been persecuted by hatred.—Edna Lister, February 9, 1964.

Up to a certain age, laws can partially legalize ignorance and innocence as an excuse, but heavenly sponsors can pay the bill only so long. Then the lessons must come with full impact until the soul learns the lesson. When you must speak a lesson in words, you pay a debt on being cruelly honest, even when it is necessary, and the debt can be great when the receiver returns blame for the cruel honesty. Before you speak, see a vision of the Master in front of the person, then you cannot be too severe.—Edna Lister, December 17, 1964.

Many nuances in beliefs and attitudes color our love affair with God. For example, even honorable people sometimes have been cruel to others and said their "honor" drove them to it.—Edna Lister, Appreciation Is a Love Affair, May 16, 1965.

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Old Testament on Cruelty

Have respect unto the covenant: for the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty.—Psalm 74:20

The merciful man does good for his own soul, but he who is cruel troubles his own flesh.—Proverbs 11:17

The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.—Proverbs 12:10

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Edna Miriam Lister
The original Pioneering Mystic,
Christian Platonist philosopher, American Idealist, Founder, Society of the Universal Living Christ, minister, teacher, author, wife, and mother.

Edna Lister

Etymology of cruel: Latin crudus, bloody, raw.

Cruelty is a sin.


Cruelty is, perhaps, the worst kind of sin.—G.K. Chesterton

Intelligent men are cruel. Stupid men are monstrously cruel.—Jack London


Chesterton, G.K. All Things Considered. New York: John Lane Co., 1909, 52.

Harper, Douglas. Online Etymology Dictionary, 2024.

The Holy Bible. King James Version (KJV).

London, Jack. The Star Rover. Modern Library Classics, Penguin Random House. 2003, ISBN ISBN 9780812970043.

Webster, Noah. Webster’s American Dictionary. New York: S. Converse, 1828.