". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


One of my Facebook friends recently posted a slightly different version of this poem on her wall. The words are often attributed to Mother Theresa, but according to this source they are probably based on something by another writer called "The Paradoxical Commandments."

People are often unreasonable, irrational and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
When I first read this post on Facebook I found myself cheering. It sounds so simple. And I have so often seen what is described here: kindness and generosity perceived as selfish self-promoting; a person's honesty used against him; selfless acts quickly forgotten; someone's best effort pronounced as still not enough; the product of many years of work and sweat torn down, ignored or summarily set aside. The problem is that as beautiful as the poem's sentiment is, I can't follow it. I find it very difficult to forgive those who have hurt me or to not be discouraged when something I have worked hard to build or accomplish is disregarded or unappreciated. I want to be thanked when I have helped someone. I want to be appreciated when I have given my best. As I read these words, I again and again come face to face with my sinful condition. I find it impossible to do all the things the poem says I should do. And the reason is that I am not just the victim of the behaviors described in the poem; I am the perpetrator. I am not just the one of whom others are jealous; I am the jealous one. I am not just the one whose good deeds go unnoticed; I am the one who fails to notice the sacrifices of others. I am not only the builder; I am also the destroyer.

Thank goodness for the final line of the poem, which reminds us that while our relationships with others are dependent on sinful human beings, our relationship with God is dependent only on Him. While others let us down, He never does. He looks at us in all our unreasonable, self-centered, deceitful, destructive selfishness and He does what we are unable to do: He loves and forgives us anyway. And ultimately that is the only "anyway" that matters and the one to which we should all desperately cling.

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