The Origin of “Do Good Anyway”

January 24, 2013
Regardless of its origin, this poem is insightful and inspiring.

Badab-e Surt, Iran

Last Thursday, in the post Are You Defined By Your Mistakes?  I shared a poem that I’ve taken to heart. Today I bring you another poem that relates to my current thinking about life.

This poem has been titled both “Do It Anyway” and “Do Good Anyway” and often erroneously attributed to Mother Theresa. However, when I checked with Quote Investigator, a new site I’ve found that is “dedicated to tracing quotations,” I read:

The original collection of sayings were created by a college student named Kent M. Keith and published in 1968 in a pamphlet titled “The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council.”

. . . Note that Kent M. Keith has a website that includes a page listing the expressions above which he calls the “Paradoxical Commandments of Leadership”. Keith discusses the origin of the commandments, and his claims are consistent with the documentary evidence that QI has located.

. . . Indeed, the sayings did evolve during decades of transmission, and multiple variants have been published in newspapers, books, and magazines. Sometimes entire statements have been deleted. But Keith’s “Paradoxical Commandments” function as the foundational text, and other sets have been directly or indirectly derived from them.

I was glad to see that QI also explained why the poem is attributed to Mother Theresa.


People are often unreasonable, illogical, 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
false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank,
people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone
could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

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

The good you do today,
people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have,
and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis,
it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

 Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


Did you enjoy this post?
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