Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Paradoxical Commandments

These "Paradoxical Commandments" are often attributed to Mother Teresa because apparently she had a version of them hanging on the walls of her children's home in Calcutta, but they were actually written in 1968 by a 19-year old Harvard student writing a booklet for student leaders:

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.
Succeed anyway.
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.
Build anyway.
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 [may] get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.
[Recently an 11th one was added:]
The world is full of violence, injustice, starvation, disease, and environmental destruction.
Have faith anyway.

These commandments echo the words of Jesus when He said:
But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil (Luke 6:35).
I have to add here, that in admiring or following teachings such as these, we must be careful not to develop a martyr complex – a psychological condition in which pain, misfortune, and mistreatment in the face of "doing good" is somehow made to feed one's ego and make one feel "special."  This is not healthy.  We just need to think more deeply about our reasons for doing things, and realize that we need to do what's right because it is right, even if no one else will recognize or appreciate us for doing it.  What it really important is not so much what we accomplish but what we become by our labors.  Here it is appropriate to add the final words of the Mother Teresa version:
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ezer Kenegdo - a "Helpmeet"

“Rabbinic and Christian commentators alike have taught that the creating of Eve from Adam's rib is a figurative account designed to teach us the proper relationship between man and woman. She is not created from a head bone to rule over him, nor from a foot bone to be beneath him, but rather from his rib to be equal to him, by his side, under his arm for protection, and close to his heart—to truly be an ezer kenegdo.” [Source]