We can strengthen our families, communities, and nation by teaching the rising generation to do good but difficult things without expecting any appreciation for doing so. We must teach them to do good in spite of what others may say or do.
In 1968, Kent M. Keith, a nineteen-year-old sophomore at Harvard College wrote “The Paradoxical Commandments” as part of a booklet for student leaders. The booklet was entitled The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council and published by Harvard Student Agencies. His words circled the globe for more than thirty years and have touched the hearts of millions of people. They have been quoted in speeches and articles and put on walls and refrigerator doors. They have been used by business leaders, military commanders, religious leaders, teachers, coaches, etc. to inspire others.
Mother Teresa put “The Paradoxical Commandments” on the wall of her Calcutta children’s home. They were later included in a book compiled by Lucinda Vardey, Mother Teresa: A Simple Path, published in 1995. This inclusion caused many people to attribute “The Paradoxical Commandments” to Mother Teresa.
One September night in 1997, Mr.Keith attended Rotary Club meeting. The meetings usually started with a prayer or a special thought. One of the Rotarians stood; he noted that Mother Teresa had passed away and he wanted to honor her memory by reading one of her poems. Mr. Keith was astonished to hear his friend read eight of the original ten “Paradoxical Commandments.”
After the meeting Mr. Keith quizzed his friend about the poem and learned it was in a book about Mother Teresa. He went to a bookstore and started looking through all the books about Mother Teresa and finally found it on the last page before the appendices in Mother Teresa: A Simple Path. He noticed that “The Paradoxical Commandments” had been reformatted into the form of a poem and retitled “Anyway.” There was no author listed but the simple notation: “From a sign on the wall of Shishu Bhavan, the children’s home in Calcutta.”
Mr. Keith wanted to laugh, then cry, and then shout-out; he even got chills up and down his spine. He had a lot of respect for Mother Teresa and was grateful to know that she thought his words were good enough to put on the wall of her children’s home.
The original ten “Paradoxical Commandments” are listed below. All or part of them has been published in numerous books, using various titles such as “Anyway” and “The Final Analysis.”
We can help the rising generation understand that life is not easy and good is not always appreciated. We can teach them to persevere in doing good but difficult things and thus to strengthen our families, communities, and nations in doing so.
The Paradoxical Commandments
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.
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.
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.