Bryan Stevenson is a lawyer and activist who has dedicated his life to fighting for justice for the poor and marginalized. He is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit organization that provides legal representation to those who have been unfairly incarcerated.

Stevenson's work has brought him into contact with some of the most difficult cases and circumstances imaginable. Yet, he remains hopeful and committed to his cause. In his book Just Mercy, he writes: “Each of us is more than the worst thing we've ever done.”

What can we learn from Bryan Stevenson about mercy and justice?

First, we can learn that mercy is always possible. No matter how terrible the crime or how hopeless a situation may seem, there is always the possibility of forgiveness and redemption. Second, we can learn that justice is not always about punishment. Sometimes, the best way to achieve justice is to show compassion and understanding. Third, we can learn that hope is essential. Hope gives us the strength to keep fighting for what is right, even when the odds seem insurmountable.

Bryan Stevenson's work reminds us that there is always reason to hope for a better future. His example shows us that it is possible to fight for justice with compassion and mercy. We can all learn from his example and strive to make our world a more just and merciful place.

Read these quotes to get inspired by Bryan Stevenson's wisdom — and to find the motivation to make a positive difference in the world.

The Best Bryan Stevenson Quotes

Famous Quotes 

“Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”
— Bryan Stevenson

“Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.” — Bryan Stevenson

“I’ve come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.”
— Bryan Stevenson

“I’ve come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.” — Bryan Stevenson

“When you experience mercy, you learn things that are hard to learn otherwise. You see things you can't otherwise see; you hear things you can't otherwise hear. You begin to recognize the humanity that resides in each of us.”
— Bryan Stevenson

“When you experience mercy, you learn things that are hard to learn otherwise. You see things you can't otherwise see; you hear things you can't otherwise hear. You begin to recognize the humanity that resides in each of us.” — Bryan Stevenson

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth. In too many places, the opposite of poverty is justice.”
— Bryan Stevenson

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth. In too many places, the opposite of poverty is justice.” — Bryan Stevenson

“We all have a responsibility to create a just society.”
— Bryan Stevenson

“We all have a responsibility to create a just society.” — Bryan Stevenson

“You don’t change the world with the ideas in your mind, but with the conviction in your heart.”
— Bryan Stevenson

“You don’t change the world with the ideas in your mind, but with the conviction in your heart.” — Bryan Stevenson

On Justice

“Love is the motive, but justice is the instrument”
— Bryan Stevenson

“Love is the motive, but justice is the instrument” — Bryan Stevenson

“It is about how easily we condemn people in this country and the injustice we create when we allow fear, anger, and distance to shape the way we treat the most vulnerable among us.”
— Bryan Stevenson

“It is a paradox for a society that talks about freedom & equality to be so comfortable with having the highest rate of incarceration in the world. We’ve got 4% of the planet’s population, but nearly 25% of the planet’s imprisoned. And nobody seems to feel bad about that.”
— Bryan Stevenson, on With(in) podcast.

“It is a paradox for a society that talks about freedom & equality to be so comfortable with having the highest rate of incarceration in the world. We’ve got 4% of the planet’s population, but nearly 25% of the planet’s imprisoned. And nobody seems to feel bad about that.” — Bryan Stevenson, on With(in) podcast.

“I may be old, I may be poor, I may be Black, but I’m here. I’m here because I’ve got this vision of justice that compels me to be a witness. I’m here because I’m supposed to be here. I’m here because you can’t keep me away.”
— Bryan Stevenson

Read more of the best quotes about justice

On Mercy

“Mercy is most empowering, liberating, and transformative when it is directed at the undeserving. The people who haven’t earned it, who haven’t even sought it, are the most meaningful recipients of our compassion.”
— Bryan Stevenson

“Mercy is most empowering, liberating, and transformative when it is directed at the undeserving. The people who haven’t earned it, who haven’t even sought it, are the most meaningful recipients of our compassion.” — Bryan Stevenson

“Sometimes we’re fractured by the choices we make; sometimes we’re shattered by things we would never have chosen. But our brokenness is also the source of our common humanity, the basis for our shared search for comfort, meaning, and healing. Our shared vulnerability and imperfection nurtures and sustains our capacity for compassion.”
— Bryan Stevenson

“I decided that I was supposed to be here to catch some of the stones people cast at each other.”
— Bryan Stevenson

“I decided that I was supposed to be here to catch some of the stones people cast at each other.” — Bryan Stevenson

“We've submitted to the harsh instinct to crush those among us whose brokenness is most visible.”
— Bryan Stevenson

But simply punishing the broken — walking away from them or hiding them from sight — only ensures that they remain broken and we do, too. There is no wholeness outside of our reciprocal humanity.”
— Bryan Stevenson

“It’s when mercy is least expected that it’s most potent — strong enough to break the cycle of victimization and victimhood, retribution and suffering. It has the power to heal the psychic harm and injuries that lead to aggression and violence, abuse of power, mass incarceration.”
— Bryan Stevenson

On Hope

“The kind of hope that creates a willingness to position oneself in a hopeless place and be a witness, that allows one to believe in a better future, even in the face of abusive power. That kind of hope makes one strong.”
— Bryan Stevenson

“The kind of hope that creates a willingness to position oneself in a hopeless place and be a witness, that allows one to believe in a better future, even in the face of abusive power. That kind of hope makes one strong.” — Bryan Stevenson

“I know that some have been through more than others. But if we don’t expect more from each other, hope better for one another, and recover from the hurt we experience, we are surely doomed.”
— Bryan Stevenson,

“Hope is kind of an orientation of the spirit; it’s how you position yourself in places where there’s a lot of despair.”
— Bryan Stevenson, on the podcast Person Place Thing with Randy Cohen.

“Hope is kind of an orientation of the spirit; it’s how you position yourself in places where there’s a lot of despair.” — Bryan Stevenson, on the podcast Person Place Thing with Randy Cohen.

“Hopelessness is the enemy of justice. Hope allows us to push for word, even when the truth is distorted by the people in power. It allows us to stand when they tell us to sit down, and to speak when they say be quiet.”
— Bryan Stevenson

“But if we don't expect more from each other, hope better for one another, and recover from the hurt we experience, we are surely doomed.”
— Bryan Stevenson

“But if we don't expect more from each other, hope better for one another, and recover from the hurt we experience, we are surely doomed.” — Bryan Stevenson

Read more of the best quotes about hope

On Motivation

“There's always something we can do. Whatever you did, your life is still meaningful.”
— Bryan Stevenson

“There's always something we can do. Whatever you did, your life is still meaningful.” — Bryan Stevenson

“It can be a challenge, but my legacy, at least for the people who came before me, is you don't run from challenges because that's more comfortable and convenient.”
— Bryan Stevenson

“We are all implicated when we allow others to be mistreated.”
— Bryan Stevenson

“We are all implicated when we allow others to be mistreated.” — Bryan Stevenson

“When we create the right kind of identity, we can say things to the world around us that they don’t actually believe makes sense. We can get them to do things that they don’t think they can do.”
— Bryan Stevenson

“You should not underestimate the power you have to affirm the humanity and dignity of the people around you. When you do that, they will teach you something about what you need to learn about human dignity, but also what you can do to be a change agent.”
— Bryan Stevenson, on On Being with Krista Tippet podcast. 

“You should not underestimate the power you have to affirm the humanity and dignity of the people around you. When you do that, they will teach you something about what you need to learn about human dignity, but also what you can do to be a change agent.” — Bryan Stevenson, on On Being with Krista Tippet podcast. 

More Quotes

“Always do the right thing even when the right thing is the hard thing.”
— Bryan Stevenson

“Always do the right thing even when the right thing is the hard thing.” — Bryan Stevenson

“There is no disconnect around technology and design that will allow us to be fully human until we pay attention to suffering, to poverty, to exclusion, to unfairness, to injustice.”
— Bryan Stevenson

“Somebody has to stand when other people are sitting. Somebody has to speak when other people are quiet.”
— Bryan Stevenson

“We have a choice. We can embrace our humanness, which means embracing our broken natures and the compassion that remains our best hope for healing. Or we can deny our brokenness, forswear compassion, and, as a result, deny our own humanity.”
Bryan Stevenson