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  • Do It Anyway

    February 28, 2007

    The Paradoxical Commandments written by Dr. Kent M. Keith in 1968 state: “Give the world your best and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.” If ever there were a list of how to live counter to the culture, counter to human instinct, this is it.

    There is a group of mothers that I come into contact with on a regular basis. I smile at these women and try to make eye contact but mostly what I get in return are eyes that look down and then away. I am invisible. On these days that I pass them, searching for a smile, searching for acknowledgement that I exist, I think of Dr. Keith’s paradoxical commandments. They are so hard. I don’t want to smile anyway. I want to lash out. But I don’t. I just smile, even though a little piece of me just died.

    Recently Sean and I were in Wal-Mart looking at cards. He is sitting in the front of the cart. A man comes down the aisle behind me. I see his eyes light up as the man approaches. Sean gives him a smile that would melt an iceberg. As the man passes, I watch his face fall. Tears well up in his eyes. “That man didn’t smile at me!” he says. He is crushed. I am crushed for him. He doesn’t understand. I certainly don’t understand. I think of Dr. Kent and his commandments and how hard they are. They are so hard.

    “I don’t know why he didn’t smile at you,” I say to comfort him. “But that’s okay. Just smile at him anyway.”

    “Just smile anyway,” I repeat, not for emphasis, but so that I might just convince myself.

    The Paradoxical Commandments
    by Dr. Kent M. Keith

    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 will 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.

    46 Comments »

    1. diana says:

      Ya know even now I have some of those same learning moments with my teenaged kids… just like you did with Sean in the card aisle… and I tell my kids… kill em with kindness…. and my one daughter says… why do I always have to take the high road?… and my only answer… because its the right thing to do…. i think. xo

      February 28th, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    2. Jill @ Who Could Ask for Anything More says:

      I have felt the same as you, and Sean, many times. (Hey, I’m a blogger who would rarely get a comment if it weren’t for my husband, but I blog and comment anyway!) I am sure the women of which you write feel the same way, too. I try to be sensitive to others as much as I can and I hope that I am a welcome smile for most people, most of the time. It’s just so much harder when we see it happening to our children.

      February 28th, 2007 at 1:40 pm

    3. Shalee says:

      Where is it written that when we grow up we have the right to ignore others or be rude?! I’m so glad I missed that lesson…

      Give Sean a hug for me and tell him that I still think about his sweet smile and it makes me want to visit him again.

      AM, know this: I really wish that I lived near you. But perhaps it is a blessing in disguise because I would go with you to Sean’s preschool and give those young ladies a tongue-lashing or two. Not necessarily Christian, huh? As I don’t, I can only say that you can have my undivided attention anytime and you do have a true, sincere friend who know that you’re not invisible but rather incredible.

      February 28th, 2007 at 2:14 pm

    4. Annie says:

      Reminds me of Martina McBride’s current single, Anyway. The lyrics are here (and the song should play, too): http://www.hit-country-music-lyrics.com/Martina-McBride-Anyway-Lyrics.html
      It’s a good one… and those are all good rules to live by.

      February 28th, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    5. Antique Mommy says:

      My suspician is that most people turn away not because they are mean but because they are shy or insecure or turned inward and rapped up in their own personal drama. Knowing that helps to some degree, but the effect is still the same and feels cruddy.

      February 28th, 2007 at 2:18 pm

    6. Rocks in my Dryer says:

      That’s great, AM. Sure wish we lived closer.

      February 28th, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    7. Marti says:

      Definitely one of the worst feelings around and I’m sorry it happens to you or to any of us. But your determined smile is a godsend. I’ve received small kindnesses from strangers who never knew how very badly I needed some hope, and I try hard pass on kindness myself. You never know who desperately needs YOU to smile – maybe even one of those cold moms. And you’ve doubled your humanity by teaching Sean the paradox. But it still stinks, and I’m sorry.

      February 28th, 2007 at 3:18 pm

    8. toyfoto says:

      I needed this today. Thank you.

      February 28th, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    9. Tara says:

      I’m a smiler… and it makes me want to cry how “unoften” people smile back.

      It’s extra special when they do.

      February 28th, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    10. An Iowa Mom says:

      Like Annie … this reminds me of current hit by Martina McBride. Everytime it comes on the radio I turn it up and tell my children to listen closely. 🙂

      So many times I’ve experienced the same thing. Offer a smile and get nothing in return. It hurts my heart really. Even as an adult … just hurts me. But, I’ll keep smiling. If I stopped, I’d be hurting no one but myself really, right?

      February 28th, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    11. Pam says:

      AM, this post cut me to the quick…

      I’m sure I have done exactly what you’ve described, a thousand times. As you say, it’s not because I’m mean, but because I’m “shy or insecure or wrapped up in my own personal drama” — exactly that. And how often I’ve passed people by, waiting for them to smile at me — instead of offering a smile or a “Hi!” first… well, I don’t think I can count that high.

      I try to be careful when greeting children, because we live in the age of “don’t talk to strangers.” But when I think of little Sean, sitting in the cart with a row of cheery greeting cards as a backdrop, and sweetly offering a smile to passers-by, well… it brings tears of joy. I don’t think I would have been able to contain my smile and a greeting!

      I am challenged by this post to be more friendly and smile at strangers (and acquaintances). It might make a big difference in their day.

      Thank you.

      February 28th, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    12. Karen says:

      Great reminder for us all. I love this!

      February 28th, 2007 at 5:01 pm

    13. Gwen says:

      Dear AM,

      I have never heard of Dr. Keith or the Paradoxical Commandments but I was surprised by how many of them either I or my husband have experienced in our lives. I know what you mean about other people being unfriendly and I do the same thing about providing them with excuses. Another mom stopped us (me and Carter) in the grocery once to comment to her little boy how my son was wearing the same outfit that her son had. She was so pleasant and friendly and I so wanted to bring her home for a cup of tea. The only place we’ve lived where people were friendly was in Surfside Beach, SC. We lived in a condo development and you couldn’t walk or drive into or out of this park without waving to anyone passing by or stopping the car to chat. Granted, most of these people were retirees, but…

      February 28th, 2007 at 5:32 pm

    14. Shelly says:

      I so enjoyed the list. I am pretty sure my dad had that on his wall. It brought back images of my dad since that was his philosophy of life. Thanks for sharing it, and go ahead and keep smiling. Those women may be preoccupied or insecure. I know that is usually my problem and why I don’t always initiate contact, I am afraid of how I will be received. Yet I strive to give a most confident air, I hope no one knows.

      February 28th, 2007 at 6:02 pm

    15. Carrie says:

      I’m sorry for those people’s attitude! It really is amazing how much better you can feel after a 2-minute conversation in Sam’s Club about rice with a perfect stranger! 🙂 I had this experience just today, and I live in Western New York state!

      As a side note, I also try to be careful about talking to children in public, I never know if the parent will think that I’m trying to take their child or something…but I would definitely smile as I walked by!

      February 28th, 2007 at 6:30 pm

    16. Kacey says:

      Perhaps you could tell Sean that the man is blind in his heart — he would have to be. I smile just looking at Sean’s pictures. He is so beautiful and your stories have shown us that he is beautiful inside, too. (Beside that, he looks like my oldest grandson did at the same age — and he grew up too fast!) I wish I could get that time back. Thanks for sharing Dr. Keith’s Commandments.

      February 28th, 2007 at 6:42 pm

    17. Jamie says:

      WHOA! Am I new or what?! I have never heard that before and I LOOOOVE it. Thanks!

      I might start being that annoying person that responds with a famous quote when in discussion with friends and acquaintances. I can spew off one of those quotes and my friends will look at me and think “God, I hate it when people spew off philosophical stuff when you are just havin a casual conversation”

      But I love those commandments and I might do it anyway. Thanks again!

      Jamie

      February 28th, 2007 at 6:42 pm

    18. Susan Joyce says:

      A friend of mine gave me a brthday card with these saying on them in 1984 at a very low point in my life. I had another friend decopauge them on a wooden plaque and they hang in my entry hall.

      All we are responsible for is ourselves and our own actions. It makes us feel better to do the right thing and that is very important.

      I try and understand what kind of hurt or sorrow people like that must be going through and feel sorry for them. I am a smiler and have no intention of ever quiting!

      February 28th, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    19. Overwhelmed! says:

      I like what Dr. Kent M. Keith has to say. Thanks, I needed to see this today. My SIL is trying to pass out “tough love” and it’s frustrating me a bit. This post helps put things in perspective!

      February 28th, 2007 at 8:06 pm

    20. Roxanne says:

      Bless your heart. After the day I had teaching middle school students and calling their parents who defended bad behavior and demanded to know what would happen to the other kid and they’d better get the same as their kid gets. . .well, I REALLY needed that. I whole heartedly agree, but I REALLY needed it.

      And AM, we all think you are just about the best thing since sliced bread. I know it doesn’t help. . .I know it kills you for those gals to look away. . .but I promise you, you brighten the day of all you touch with your words. Thank you for sharing yourself with us.

      February 28th, 2007 at 8:11 pm

    21. Gypsy Purple-Chamara says:

      How true!!!!
      Stunning

      February 28th, 2007 at 9:12 pm

    22. sarahgrace says:

      I have never seen the paradoxical commandments before…it’s really good stuff… : )

      February 28th, 2007 at 10:33 pm

    23. Big Mama says:

      Great post. I think people get caught up in themselves and forget to reach out to those around them. It’s their loss.

      February 28th, 2007 at 10:51 pm

    24. Rebecca says:

      I’ve never seen all of those together as a whole before. Those are good words to live by.

      February 28th, 2007 at 11:17 pm

    25. Misslionheart says:

      My heart would have sunk for him. Poor little fella!

      (Still loving your blog!)

      March 1st, 2007 at 6:31 am

    26. Elizabeth says:

      Thanks for the encouragement, AM!

      March 1st, 2007 at 6:36 am

    27. Laura W. says:

      I remember being a little kid and being told by my mom that we should smile at people. So I do. I smile at everyone and so do my children, but more and more I am noticing that people do not smile back and it makes me sad. Lots of times people think that I work at whatever store we are at because I smiled at them. Can’t we all just love one another. I love these commandments and will use them in my life.

      March 1st, 2007 at 7:48 am

    28. wordgirl says:

      So true and SO DIFFICULT! I often rail against a world that requires me to take the high road while it seemingly gives permission to the grumpy, critical and mean to continue doing what they do. But…as the actress Carrie Fisher says: “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die”. Holding on to that bad feeling about others doesn’t help us. These commandments can only help. Still, if I see you at Wal-Mart (and who says I won’t drive your way one day?), I promise to smile at Sean.

      March 1st, 2007 at 8:19 am

    29. Beck says:

      When I first read that it was revelatory to me. I can’t say that I live by it but I’m TRYING to. And what sort of jerk doesn’t smile back at a kid?

      March 1st, 2007 at 8:50 am

    30. Chris says:

      I’m with you AM, keep smiling anyway. I smile at everyone and I talk to the little ones as well. Most parents don’t seem to mind. If a little one smiles at you how can you not respond? That seems cruel! 🙂

      March 1st, 2007 at 9:56 am

    31. Chris says:

      I’m with you AM, keep smiling anyway. I smile at everyone and I talk to the little ones as well. Most parents don’t seem to mind. If a little one smiles at you how can you not respond? That seems cruel! 🙂

      March 1st, 2007 at 9:56 am

    32. Kara says:

      Very good thought, thank you.

      March 1st, 2007 at 10:06 am

    33. sheilah says:

      The post you linked to (It Takes So Little) made me smile and cry.

      I have not been in a good place lately.

      Thank you for making me smile and cry.

      March 1st, 2007 at 10:37 am

    34. Tammy says:

      Please give a smile and a hug to Sean for me…
      This was a good reminder. Sometimes I am feeling so shy that I find myself not making eye contact on a given day…and I have to remind myself to force that eye contact and smile because it could so easily be misinterpreted. And really…even shyness is selfishness in the long run!
      Blessings!

      March 1st, 2007 at 11:16 am

    35. Susan says:

      I hate it when adults ignore kids like that. It used to break my heart when my children were Sean’s age and that would happen.

      Something else I don’t like is when attention is paid to a younger, cuter child and that child’s older sibling is completely ignored. (Suddenly, they’re not so “important” anymore.) I always try to acknowledge both (or all) children and not just single out the youngest/cutest one in a group.

      I love what you posted; I got that on e-mail recently and sent it to my 11-yr-old son. He’s very sensitive and very considerate, so I knew he’d appreciate it, as well.

      Please give your sweet, smiling babydoll a hug for me!

      March 1st, 2007 at 11:52 am

    36. mama speak says:

      I didn’t read all the comments, but I did want to say that sometimes I think we feel bad about this kind of stuff because we’re feeling bad and if we’re having a “good day” we blow it off, it doesn’t phase us. If you weren’t feeling down would your response to Sean have been more along the lines of “maybe he didn’t see you” or “I smiled at you and really that’s all that matters honey.”

      My point isn’t to disregard your feelings, cause I’ve totally been there (everyone has) and today I’m closer to what you speak of then what I speak of (does that make sense? I’m more negative then positive these days) My point is that I think sometimes we give off vibes and are responded to as such. We take things very personally when they really aren’t. It’s all in the perspective you take at that given moment.

      That being said, I like the principles you quoted and may have to use them for a scrapbook page 😉

      You write so well, I really enjoy your posts.

      Tell Seah that TS, BS and I are smilling at him and sending big HUGS to all of you!

      March 1st, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    37. Tracey says:

      I am so glad you posted this. My friend Robbin (My Level of Awareness) directed her readers here. She wanted us to see how astute your post is, and, as usual, she is so right.

      I am so sorry that little Sean had to go through the same thing we adults do. It’s not fair that people help our kids lose their innocent and trusting natures so early. But you were awesome in telling him to smile anyway. My mother always gave me that advice, and it has served me well over the years. I smile, and I still get hurt when it is not returned, or when it is mocked. But I also revel in how glorious it is when someone DOES return the smile. It just makes life worthwhile.

      And thank you for the list of Paradoxical Commandments. It’s nice to hear someone else say the things your heart shouts as true.

      You have a nice day, Antique Mommy. :oD

      March 1st, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    38. Robbin says:

      Thanks for posting this. It had far, far more substance than anything I could say today, so I just linked to it.

      I travel regularly for my work. And I rarely get poor service. I have found a little pleasantry is often unexpected (sadly), and highly effective.

      March 1st, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    39. Nutmeg says:

      Girl, if I passed you in the street and you smiled at me, I’d throw my arms around you and smother you with kisses! A mother my age with a toddler? And a sense of humor? Lord, my prayers are answered!

      March 1st, 2007 at 2:57 pm

    40. Linda says:

      I’m glad that God’s blessings run counter to all of those. I’m so sad that little boys must learn so early that life can be rather hurtful sometimes. It hurts my heart to think of his little spirit being crushed like that.
      Fortunately he has a mommy who surrounds him with love.

      March 1st, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    41. Mommy Dearest says:

      Those are truly words to live by, although the lessons are sometimes difficult. I’m sorry your little Sean had to experience that; he’s quite fortunate to have you by his side.

      March 1st, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    42. Carolyn says:

      I’ve been reading(lurking) and enjoying your blog and your outlook on life for a few weeks now. I only want to smile and wave and make eye contact with you. 🙂

      March 1st, 2007 at 7:48 pm

    43. Stephanie says:

      Gosh, I needed to read that list today…

      March 1st, 2007 at 9:41 pm

    44. Sheila says:

      Thanks for the positive reminder that one person does make a difference.

      March 2nd, 2007 at 9:33 am

    45. abogada says:

      That is one of my favorites. Thank you for reminding me.

      March 2nd, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    46. nina says:

      I talk about this alot with my children. I always say maybe that person has a very sad life, maybe they just found out someone they loved passed away, or that they just got bad news from a doctor. You are right, never stop smiling. And AM you know those snobby women DO NOT HAVE the wonderful group of intelligent, witty, genuine bloggy friends like you do!!! Yeah to us!!!

      March 4th, 2007 at 12:46 am

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