In 1968, when Kent M. Keith was a 19-year-old sophomore at Harvard University, he wrote “The Paradoxical Commandments” as part of a booklet for student leaders. He describes the Commandments as guidelines for finding personal meaning in the face of adversity:
1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
3. If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
6. 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.
7. People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
9. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.
10. Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.
The essence of these Commandments is that each of us must choose to do what we think we should do, even when we think we have good reasons not to. They remind us that we are capable of rising above common practices that demean our nature and our culture.
We can rationalize distorting the Golden Rule as “Do unto others as they have done unto you” or “Do unto others before they do unto you,” but, in the terminology of the 60s, we then become part of the problem rather than the solution.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.
About the author: Michael Josephson is one of the nation’s most sought-after and quoted ethicists. Founder and president of Josephson Institute and its CHARACTER COUNTS! project, he has conducted programs for more than 100,000 leaders in government, business, education, sports, law enforcement, journalism, law, and the military. Mr. Josephson is also an award-winning radio commentator.