THE PARADOXICAL COMMANDMENTS
By Kent Keith
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.
Dr. Kent Keith published The Paradoxical Commandments as part of a book he wrote for student leaders in 1968 when he was an undergraduate at Harvard. These maxims for finding meaning in the face of adversity took on a life of their own, making their way into countless speeches, advice columns, books, institutions, and homes around the world, oftentimes in altered versions. One of those versions was seen on a plaque on the wall in Mother Teresa’s children’s home in Calcutta, India. The words were reprinted in a 1995 book about Mother Teresa titled A Simple Path, and for that reason, most people believe she is the author. An altered version of that already altered version is the one that has become most famous. It is reprinted below as The Final Analysis.
Dr. Kent Keith
THE FINAL ANALYSIS
Here on Kent Keith’s comments on this version, from his website: http://www.kentmkeith.com
“The last two lines in this “final analysis” version trouble me, because they can be read in a way that is inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus, the life of Mother Teresa, and the message of the ‘Paradoxical Commandments’ themselves. The statement that “it was never between you and them anyway” seems to justify giving up on, or ignoring, or discounting other people. That is what Jesus told us we should not do. Jesus said that there are two great commandments—to love God, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. So in the final analysis, it is between you and God, but it is also between you and ‘them.'”
In 2006 Martina McBride recorded a song based on the words on the wall at Mother Teresa’s children home. She wrote “Anyway” with Brad Warren and Brett Warren, and it made it to #5 on the Country Western charts.
Somethin’ from nothin’
One storm can come and blow it all away
Build it anyway
You can chase a dream
That seems so out of reach
And you know it might not ever come your way
Dream it anyway
God is great, but sometimes life ain’t good
When I pray it doesn’t always turn out like I think it should
But I do it anyway
I do it anyway
This world’s gone crazy and it’s hard to believe
That tomorrow will be better than today
Believe it anyway
You can love someone with all your heart
For all the right reasons
And in a moment they can choose to walk away
love ’em anyway [chorus]
You can pour your soul out singing
A song you believe in
That tomorrow they’ll forget you ever sang
Sing it anyway
Yeah, sing it anyway
I sing, I dream, I love