By 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.
This selection, entitled, "The Paradoxical Commandments," was written by Kent M. Keith as part of a booklet for student leaders in 1968 when he was a 19-year-old Harvard Student. For more than forty-five years, the Paradoxical Commandments have circled the globe. They have been put on walls and refrigerator doors, featured in speeches and articles, preached from pulpits, and shared extensively on the web. They have been used by business leaders, military commanders, government officials, religious leaders, university presidents, social workers, teachers, rock stars, parents, coaches, and students.
The verse has even been mistakenly attributed to Mother Teresa who had a version hung as a poem on a wall in her Children's Home in Calcutta.
The text contains 10 commandments. The theme and the paradox is to persevere in doing good for humanity and acting with integrity even if your efforts aren't appreciated.
What about the author, Kent M. Keith? He earned a B.A. in Government from Harvard University, an M.A. in Philosophy and Politics from Oxford University, a Certificate in Japanese from Waseda University in Tokyo, a J.D. from the University of Hawaii, and an Ed. D. from the University of Southern California. He is a Rhodes Scholar.
Dr. Keith has been an attorney, a state government official, a high tech park developer, president of a private university, graduate school lecturer, community organizer, and YMCA executive. He is currently the Chief Executive Officer of the Greenleaf Center for Servant-Leadership.
Dr. Kent M. Keith is a dynamic speaker and writer whose mission is to help people find personal meaning in a crazy world. He has been featured on the front page of The New York Times and in People magazine, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, and Family Circle.
Dr. Keith has given over 900 presentations, conference papers, and seminars. His presentations and seminars are focused on servant leadership and finding personal meaning at home and at work.
"I laid down the Paradoxical Commandments as a challenge," Keith said. "The challenge is to always do what is right and good and true, even if others don't appreciate it. You have to keep striving, no matter what, because if you don't, many of the things that need to be done in our world will never get done."
Keith believes in "people-consciousness." He understands if you are not sensitive to the needs of people you lead, you cannot answer those needs. He believes if you are going to do right by people, you have to be concerned with their welfare. Leadership without compassion and care for the welfare of others is irrelevant or even antagonistic to the needs of your peers. Dr. Keith calls caring "a natural necessity."
It is easy for leadership to become "self-centered" instead of "people-centered. For example: how willing are you to support a project that you feel has great value for the public but is considered ridiculous by many? Yet, what if you are convinced that standing alone on the issue has great value? Which do you place first, your own popularity or the meaningfulness attached to helping people? If you are a "people-consciousness" person, you will risk the loss of prestige for the gain of your fellow man.
People-consciousness is not easy to adopt, and it is often even harder to put into effect. In a complacent society fed mainly by a "please me now" mentality in a world ruled by instantaneous gratification, you must give up a lot of ego-satisfaction. You must give of your time and effort because you care and want to give, not because you are expecting glory and prominence in return.
This type of caring makes you set out to do things because you believe in them and, in return, you will be content with the simple satisfaction of doing what you know will benefit others. Embarking on needed change often requires brand new thinking and unique conceptualizing -- these rigorous journeys usually take you far away from familiar, safe harbors into new, unfamiliar and even personally threatening waters. No worthwhile discovery comes easily as you commit yourself to finding novel, workable solutions.
You can be a good, people-conscious person and still be attacked and mistreated by the people you are trying to help. For example, a workable solution to a problem may be much harder to stomach than a mere lack of recognition. People may not be willing to sustain the effort to join your cause. Meaningful change is fraught with such resistance. It is wise to consider that actions requiring considerable labor and discomfort from others may also lack strong support. Doubling your determination, you may need strong industry to fight resistance to a good solution.
Enter the Paradoxical Commandments. Doing good for the sake of doing good never guarantees success or praise. In fact, doing good makes you more vulnerable to critics and to enemies. Yet, once you begin helping others -- and, as you reach the state of people-consciousness at your full potential -- you can rest assured you are contributing your unique talents and "giving your best."
To quote Dr. Kent M. Keith ...
"One thing can't be overemphasized here: this approach does not require saints, nor does it make martyrs. It requires conscientious leaders, and provides a meaningful leadership style; it requires sensitive leaders, and provides an effective outlet for that sensitivity. Why a saint? Silent Revolutions simply need people who are very human. And why a martyr? Silent Resolutions demand a lot, but they give a lot in return.
"Personally, I'm convinced that if you are helping people for your sake and not theirs, you'll never be satisfied: either the "return" in personal glorification won't come, or if it does, it won't for long appease a constantly growing ego. If you're out for glory you'll never have enough, and you'll never be happy.
"On the other hand, if you really care and want to help, then a lack of recognition is no great tragedy. To the contrary, it can be a very satisfying approach - you do things because they are valid in themselves, not because they are calculated to bring so many votes and so much glory. If meaning and significance have anything to do with happiness - and I think they do! - then the Silent Revolutionary is one of the happiest leaders around. Who's a martyr?
"Silent Revolutions can give deep-feeling leaders a deeply satisfying leadership experience. You can buy glory and recognition: you can't buy meaning. Satisfaction has to come from inside. Newspaper headlines can't give it to you. The price of leading a Silent Revolution is high, but well worth paying. To pay it back with interest, try some real brotherly love. It can be the happiest thing that ever happens to you."
(Kent M. Keith. "Meet the Author of the Paradoxical Commandments." paradoxicalcommandments.com. 2015)
I want to apply the Paradoxical Commandments to opiate drug abuse as we know it. This information is from a prior post in the blog about King Heroin:
"In 92 locations across Europe, Canada, and Australia, drug users bring their own drugs into safe injection facilities (SIFs) and inject in the presence of medical staff. SIF staff provide sterile injection equipment, medical advice and treatment referrals and intervene in case of overdose.
"All 92 SIFs have demonstrated a track record of success--millions of injections and tens of thousands of overdoses have not killed a single person. The difference is stark. A year ago in Pittsburgh, a batch of heroin mixed with fentanyl killed 22 people. A similar batch caused 32 people to overdose nine months later in Vancouver. Thirty-one of them overdosed at Insite, the city's SIF, where the medical staff saved their lives. The 32nd, a woman in her 20s, was found dead in a downtown hostel."
(Amos Irwin. "Why Heroin Overdoses Are Rising and How We Can Prevent Them."
The Huffington Post. The Blog. March 10, 2015)
A new mindset about heroin addiction and a more determined, aggressive approach to saving lives are needed. The question is if citizens with old stigmas can open their minds in order to initiate and support such change. It seems when it comes to death and destruction, heroin is still the royal master. It's time to dethrone King Heroin.
It is time to do good, to think big, and to be honest and frank about the need to embark on a new policy to save lives and to stop an epidemic of opiate deaths. It would be wonderful to have an army of sainted Mother Teresa's onboard, but I, like Dr. Kent M. Keith, trust that conscientious leaders who simply believe in "people-consciousness" can accomplish the job.
The key word in making progress is "anyway." Doing good "anyway," despite criticism and obstacles, is the action that overcomes the paradox. With eyes on the common good, progressive warriors who are attacked, mangled, and "shot down," continue to take positive steps that change the world. They don't do it for money or for fame: they just do it "anyway."