Mother Teresa ‘Do it Anyway’ Poem: Who Wrote it?

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa talks to nuns from the Missionaries of Charity after a mass at the congregation’s home for destitute children in New Delhi. (Getty)

Mother Teresa, who will become a Saint on September 4, left behind many inspirational quotes.

However, many people remember her for what is often called the “do it anyway” poem/prayer. This poem has been shared by many and reprinted in different forms.

Mother Teresa did not write the words, though; that honor goes to a man named Kent M. Keith, who called them “the Paradoxical Commandments.” Keith was a sophomore in college when he wrote the words for the book, The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council, published by Harvard Student Agencies in 1968, according to his website.

How did the poem become tied to Mother Teresa? Keith writes that Mother Teresa posted a version of the poem on the wall of a children’s home in Calcutta, this was mentioned in a book about her, and the rest is history.

Quote Investigator says other people have also mistakenly been called the “Do it anyway” author, and agrees that Keith wrote the words. Keith is now the president of Pacific Rim Christian University in Honolulu, according to his official biography; you can read his full biography here. Keith is also the author of several books.

How does the poem go? Keith posted his original version here.

A common version of the poem reads this way:

Many people post the poem on social media:

Keith writes that the version Mother Teresa posted in Calcutta actually read like this:

ANYWAY
People are unreasonable, illogical, 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 will be forgotten tomorrow,
DO GOOD ANYWAY
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable,
BE HONEST AND FRANK ANYWAY
What you spent years building may be
destroyed overnight,
BUILD ANYWAY
People really need help
but may attack you if you 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’VE GOT ANYWAY.

One widely circulated revision of Keith’s original words has an unknown author. Either way, many people gain comfort from the words, and the world can thank Keith for creating them, and Mother Teresa for lifting them to greater worldwide attention.