The Paradoxical Commandments were written by Kent M. Keith in 1968 as part of a booklet for student leaders. For more than thirty years, they have circled the globe, been graced on refrigerators, featured in speeches, and even put up on the wall of a children’s home in Calcutta, India by Mother Teresa herself.
I think they are a powerful articulation of compassion, and a call to selfless love that would change the world. Even though I am terrible at carrying them out, I post them here as an inspiration to us all. You can find out more information on them at Kent Keith’s website, www.paradoxicalcommandments.com.
There are various versions of the Paradoxical Commandments circulating throughout cyberspace. The one below isn’t an exact match to the poem on Dr. Keith’s site, but I love it “anyway,” so here it is.
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 honest 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.
And here is one of my favorite prayers by St. Therese of Lisieux, my patron saint.
May today there be peace within.
May I trust God that I am exactly where I am meant to be.
May I not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May I use these gifts that I have received, and pass on the love that has been given to me.
May I be content knowing I am a child of God.
Let this presence settle into my bones, and allow my soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.