Have you ever read anything and thought, “Yeah, that’s true”? Have you ever read something and thought, “Yeah, that’s true, but…”? I just had that experience reading a little book called Anyway: The Paradoxical Commandments – Finding Personal Meaning in a Crazy World by Kent M. Keith. I read the book at the recommendation of a friend who was reading it at the recommendation of someone in her church.
Keith starts off talking about how he wrote the commandments and how they grew in popularity over the years being passed around the internet. Sometimes they were attributed to that very prolific author “Anonymous.” Sometimes others were given credit – even Mother Teresa! I had seen them several times, thought they were kind of cool, and moved on. Reading this book in which the author gives some examples and reasoning, made me stop to contemplate each one.
I have to say that, because of my nature, I already do some of them. They are commandments that would make for a better world if more people followed them all. However, I have one problem following in them in my life. I have trouble ignoring the downsides often. It doesn’t mean that I don’t try to do things the way he describes. It means that, when I follow his to “do it anyway” and get kicked in the teeth, I am naive or stupid enough to be bit surprised and really disappointed. I wish I could have really contemplated these ideas a few years ago. I wish I could have adopted the attitude of doing it anyway regardless of the warnings he gives being true. I wish I could have accepted the truth of the negatives. It might have made my last few years more peaceful.
I came to the end of a career where I thought I had made friends, did good things, worked on big ideas, built something, and did my best to help people. But Kent Keith is right. What I discovered were “positional” and some false friends, the good things I had worked on with my colleagues being thrown to the side, the big ideas were crushed for the convenient, and the very people I tried to help turning their backs on me. I felt like my entire professional life had come to nothing. I don’t think that is true. I have had people tell me otherwise. I am not sorry that I tried to do good things, help people, improve education, and help people. I am sorry that I wasn’t able to detach from other people’s reactions and feel good, feel pride at what I did accomplish.
Late in the book Kent Keith says,
“If you try to do what is right and good and true, and feel that you have failed, you may be tempted to shift to the cynical option of exploiting others or the indifferent option of doing nothing. But there is no justification for falling into the two immoral options just because things are not going the way you had hoped or because people don’t appreciate what you have done….
“The issue of appreciation is a big one. Many of us feel that we are being taken for granted. The people we serve (or work with – additional words from me) don’t appreciate us, so why should we give them our best? The answer is that we have our own integrity and standards, and we derive meaning and satisfaction from doing a great job. It doesn’t matter whether or not anybody knows or appreciates what we do – we still have to do what’s right. We still have to be the best we can be. This is about us, not them. This is about how much we care, not about how much they care.”
I know in my mind that he is right. I know in the core of my being that doing what is right and good and true is what I want to do. The part I can’t master is the letting go of my expectations. I hit the “why did I bother” drum over and over in my mind. I don’t know that I crave appreciation. It is nice to have someone notice what you did, but I don’t do things looking for a reward or a quid pro quo. What gets to me is when you go out of your way to help only to get thrown under the bus. I get beaten down and defeated by rejection and by false friends. When you stand up for your ideals, the work you and your team took on, the programs you built together, and in support of others – well, you just kind of hope that someone will still be standing with you in the end and that some of the good will go on.
I keep working on not caring at all what others think or at least caring a lot less. So far, it doesn’t work. I was brought up to care too much about what others think. I need to take the advice a friend keeps reminding me about. “You wouldn’t care so much about what others think if you realized how seldom they do.” It’s a work in progress. And I have some books to reread and to suggest to you too worry too much about what others think.
- Anyway: The Paradoxical Commandments – Finding Personal Meaning in a Crazy World by Kent M. Keith
- Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown
- The Generosity Factor by Kenneth H. Blanchard
- The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown
- The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out by Brennan Manning
- A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen
- Traveling Light: Releasing the Burdens You Were Never Intended to Bear by Max Lucado
- Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom