It’s never a good idea to assume anything. After leaving church today, the opportunity came up to follow through on my own advice. So I did.
During the priest’s sermon, he read a poem that struck a chord with me. It had a theme with the word, anyway, repeated throughout the piece.
As I exited the church, Father Joseph was greeting parishioners so I stopped to ask him who wrote the poem. “Mother Teresa” he replied. My eyebrows went up, I nodded my head in agreement, smiled, shook his hand, and drove home feeling really good about the service.
As Paul Harvey would say, now “the rest of the story.”
Wanting to read the poem again, I searched the internet to discover, Mother Teresa never penned the piece after all. The real author is Kent Keith who wrote “The Paradoxical Commandments” in 1968 as a 19 year old student at Harvard, as part of a booklet for student leaders titled, The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council.
Someone from Mother Teresa’s circle of influence modified the original version of Kent’s beautifully written leadership poem, using only eight of the commandments, and put them up on the wall of a children’s home in Calcutta, and titled it “Anyway.”
Since it’s writing, “The Paradoxical Commandments” has been delivered in speeches and writings around the globe by CEO’s, teachers, university president’s, rock stars, parents, military commanders, spiritual leaders, and yes, coaches.
Dr. Keith learned about the use of his poem in 1997, almost 30 years after they were published. After learning about Mother Teresa’s use of his work, he decided to talk more about the commandments.
Kent, I’m sure, forgave Mother Teresa. In fact, he was flattered with the connection between his prose and the iconic spiritual leader.
To be honest, if it weren’t for her name associated with the poem, I might not have paid that much attention to it.
I encourage you to visit Dr. Kent M. Keith’s website and learn more about the man and his teachings.
At some point down the road, I’ll say something more about a verse or two. For now, I think this beautifully written piece stands on it’s own just fine. Enjoy.
The Paradoxical Commandments – by Dr. Kent M. 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.
Which of the verses resonates with you, and why?
So why do you think Mother Teresa didn’t give credit? Doesn’t that seem strange?
Very strange. I’m not sure why Karin.
As I said, there was someone in her circle that thought it was ok to use 8 of the 10 commandments and then modify the ending.
Would you like to investigate further?
Maybe Mother Teresa didn’t know about it if someone in her circle modified it. Based on the work she did I wonder if she put much time into the written word or even paid much attention to it after a period.
Then again, I remember when I was in high school that a reverend decided to add words to Moonlight Sonata, which I took as a personal affront as I was playing it. lol
Mitch, this is called an imponderable.
I can play a simple arrangement of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” I didn’t know it had lyrics. Unless there’s another song I’m not aware of.
It doesn’t have lyrics; that’s why I was irritated.
I came over from Adrienne Smith after reading your comment there and I’m glad I did, I really enjoyed your post, I had never come across this …hum…”poem”. Not really poetry in my view but a damn good string of guidelines to maintain one’s integrity in an increasingly morally degraded world…I especially like the last one – yes, one shouldn’t mind getting kicked in the teeth if one is doing the right thing, that’s all that matters!
Thanks for sharing, shall make sure to come back!
Ya, I wasn’t sure whether to call it a poem, prose, or something else.
I like that one as well.
I think the essence of the piece is be who you are and everything else will take care of itself.
We welcome your return in future posts.
I’ve heard this poem attributed to Mother Teresa as well.
Like you say Steve, it’s interesting how we make assumptions.
You can’t believe everything you read.
Thanks for your comment Beverly.
True about assumptions.
What’s great is how easily we can search data online to determine the original source.
Interesting prose, however, Dr. Keith had a very negative view of the world and its people. Wonder what turned him into such a pessimist and whether his expectations became self-fulfilling prophesies.
What makes you say he had a pessimistic view?
The first line of every verse is so negative. He says people are unreasonable, have selfish motives, will forget any good you do, will shoot down your biggest ideas, will destroy what you spent years building and will kick you in the teeth. Either he’s extremely pessimistic or he needs to pick better friends.
He must have been speaking from experience in several of these verses.
The one that stood out for me was honesty and vulnerability. Studies have shown these attributes are associated with great leaders.
Thanks for joining the convo Susan. Glad you were able to post.
Well we definitely learn something new everyday don’t we Steve. I had no idea that Mother Theresa didn’t really write this as well. I’ve heard her name attached to variations of it or shall I say, different lines of this piece have her as quoting them.
I think if it were my work I would be a little irritated, Mother Theresa or not but then again, it’s not my piece now is it. I like it just the same and thanks for this lesson. They all really resonate with me.
I’ve gotten an interesting reaction.
One guy sent me a note saying how he can’t standard Mother T. along with this info http://ow.ly/kA8EO