Listen: If you’re here because you read my poems somewhere, I can’t even tell you how glad I am that you’ve clicked on the link to my blog. Seriously. So I hope you won’t freak out when you realize that what you’re about to read is a part of a series I’m calling “Faithfully” in which I explore some ideas I’ve had about Christianity. I’m not asking you to agree with these ideas. I promise. For more information, start here.
Let’s talk about this guy at I know.
I don’t get him. Sometimes I think he’s just an ass. Sometimes I think he just doesn’t get it. Sometimes I think he’s an evil genius.
Surely, he knows his behavior is unbecoming.
But, then again, who knows what other people know about themselves?
I think I’m pretty great, but I probably act like a douche sometimes, too.
And then I think, “What’s the point in continually checking in on myself this way when this guy surely isn’t?” I sit at home at night saying to myself, “He is not thinking about you right now, so go get a book and stop thinking about him.”
On the walls of Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta, India was this:
“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.”
They are words I wish I could live by but never do.
So it struck me that although most people attribute these sayings to Mother Teresa, it’s more likely that she (or someone in the home) copied them on the wall from another source – a pamphlet on student leadership written by a Harvard undergraduate.
Which is pretty perfect when you consider the heart of what these verses say: the “you might not get credit for this, but do the good thing anyway” sentiment.
The guy who did write these sayings, Dr. Kent M. Keith, has an entire website dedicated to clearing up the misconception. He certainly isn’t letting the “good” he’s done “be forgotten.”
But it’s not like I blame him. If someone got credit for something I’d written, I’d want to clear it up. It just so happens that the person getting credit is Mother Teresa – so then what?
I don’t actually know “then what.”
I started seeing a new spiritual director recently, and she began our first conversation by asking whether I thought Jesus died for my sins.
“I’m not sure about that part,” I told her.
And when she replied, “Well if you’re a Christian don’t you have to believe that Jesus loved you?” I became petrified that she was going to kick me out of the office because I was honest about my doubt.
“I mean, I just don’t know,” I told her.
“And you think that somehow you’re going to be able to figure it out?” she snarked.
And she was so unbelievably right.
At the end of the day, all this thinking about things doesn’t get me any place other than where I began.
Which is probably the key to living out the verses written on Mother Teresa’s wall.
And probably the key to working with super difficult people.
But it surely doesn’t make it any easier.