How to Be Great with People: The Paradoxical Commandments

Young Woman Offering Helping Hand In NatureEngraved on the wall of the children’s home Mother Theresa founded in Calcutta, India are The Paradoxical
Commandments. These verses were written by Dr. Kent M. Keith when he was just 19 years old, and they offer us guidance on how to be great with people, even when the people we are with aren’t being great themselves:

The Paradoxical Commandments

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 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'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

© Copyright Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001 (

If ever our world needed to take this to heart, it is now! Think about it: What would the world look like if we all chose to be great with people all the time, instead of being angry, vengeful, right, resentful, or just plain unkind?

What would it be like not to resent the plumber who came to your house to fix a small leak and managed to flood your entire kitchen and den? What would it be like to forgive the senior driver who inartfully merges your car right off the road and up against the highway barrier? What would it be like to give up anger and have a calm discussion with your child about the importance of integrity and being their word after they’ve been caught in a lie? What would it be like to give up harboring negative feelings for a neighbor who's political leanings differ from yours?

Being great with people is about being bigger than your complaints. It’s about having a commitment that is greater than you and your corner of the world. It’s about being committed to the good of humanity—everywhere, always—and creating peace in every interaction in your life. It’s about being committed to a better world, which starts with you.

Imagine the results if every single person on this planet was great with every other person. Jails would close, armies would disband, and families, communities, and countries would flourish!

Do you have the courage to take it on? Of course you do! Now choose!

Just a Thought.


Clay Nelson
Clay Nelson
Founder/President at Clay Nelson Life Balance
Clay Nelson's background includes science, systems analyst, and business management. After 30 years of corporate leadership, Clay knows the key elements that make a business successful, and for more than two decades, Clay has been providing business executives and their teams, from all industries, executive business and professional coaching, mediation, facilitation, planning, system analyses and seminar leadership. Read More »


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