“People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway. If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway. The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway. People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway. Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.”
~ Kent M. Keith, “The Paradoxical Commandments”, The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council, 1968
I found out this morning that these words have been falsely attributed to Mother Teresa and I am among the guilty. The author was not the Catholic nun known for her acts of mercy and love for the sick and financially poor of the world but the creator is Dr. Kent Keith, a Harvard graduate, Rhodes scholar and presently, the Chief Executive Officer of the Greenleaf Center for Servant- Leadership. Regrettably, I appreciated the words more when I believed that they were from Mother Teresa and I like another version:
“People are often unreasonable and self- centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be kind anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”
I have tried to stop the swift depreciation in their value but to no avail. This post is partly an attempt at restoration.
And therein lies the point of the paradox: Kent Keith is not Mother Teresa but he wrote “The Paradoxical Commandments” anyway. Our lives and their work are not about who we are or how we will be perceived if we are faithful to God’s commandments. The Cause is the reason for the effect and mysteriously, the Cause is too the effect.
We do it (that is forgive, love, do good, practice justice and love mercy) because it is who we are and to behave differently is to deny our true selves. It is to live falsely and not be fully present in the world. It is to exist within the social definitions of others, which is not to be confused with God’s purpose for us.
Also, the goal is not receiving the right response from others but responding rightly no matter the person. It is to keep the commandments not because you or they are the right person and thereby able to give it or worthy to receive it but because we love God: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14.15).
If he had not written these words, Mother Teresa would never have come across them. Keith wrote “The Paradoxical Commandments” when he was nineteen years old and a sophomore in college. Mother Teresa found his words and decided to place them on the wall of a children’s home in Calcutta. More persons have seen them and now I, along with millions of others, have read them because Dr. Kent did not allow his age, socioeconomic background or educational pedigree to determine what he could believe about himself and humanity.
I am going to continue to believe in and proclaim the race- less gospel of Jesus Christ. What will you do anyway?