Anyway

Mother Theresa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

People are often unreasonable, illogical,

And self-centered

Forgive them anyway

If you are kind people may accuse you of

Selfish, ulterior motives

Be kind anyway

If you are successful, you will win some false

friends and some true enemies

Succeed anyway

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you

Be honest and frank anyway

What you spend years building, someone

could destroy overnight

Build anyway

If you find serenity and happiness, they may

be jealous

Be happy anyway

The good you do today, people will often

forget tomorrow

Do good anyway

Give the world the best you have, it may

Never be enough

Give the world the best you’ve got anyway

You see, in the final analysis, it is between

you and God

It was never between you and them anyway

-Frank M. Keith

 

This song had a profound impact on me as I re-invested in life and re-created myself following my year of depression. After a year lost in despair, I discovered a new sense of vitality. In the dawn of my recovery, I had the unbridled enthusiasm of the delivered – determined to live my life with spirit and passion. Having come out of a pit of darkness and into the light, I felt an urgency to live life to its fullest, invest thoroughly in my relationships, and to apply myself wholeheartedly to my work.

I was thrilled to be back in my professional field as a social worker. But it seemed my vibrancy was an affront to a couple burned-out and disillusioned people in my new workplace. It somehow made them want to become my detractors. They distrusted my positive spirit and questioned my intentions. They even did things that directly undermined my work. This is when the song Anyway took on a very personal meaning. It spoke a healing truth to me – helping me stay on track – despite the forces working against me.

I imagine many of you have been in situations in which, despite your best efforts, you were not embraced or accepted. Occasionally, life is like this. During these times we need to discover our strongest selves, and not just resort to what comes most easily – shrinking back.

Anyway is performed as a song by Suzzy and Maggie Roche on their CD Zero Church. There is a fascinating story behind it. Anyway was found posted on the wall next to Mother Teresa’s bed at her Missionaries of Charity orphanage in Calcutta after her death.

Mother Teresa was a humble nun whose vision was to extend dignity to the poorest of the poor in India. As her missions became successful and world famous, she faced many critics who questioned her goals and her motives.

I imagine the Anyway poem resonated with her, given what she faced and what she accomplished. Anyway has not only been an important credo for me since I came upon it years ago, I have played the song many times for others who were similarly touched. I have listened to it when I felt mistreated, misunderstood, or blocked in carrying out what I knew were good purposes. The message of the poem always renews a right spirit within me. At times, we all need regeneration. Even Mother Teresa needed that.

The song speaks about the power of forgiveness, kindness, and pursuing one’s purpose, despite the barriers the world throws in one’s way. It is easier and more natural to get even – to stick it to a person who has hurt you, when you have the chance to do so.

But there is a spiritual depth in rising above it, and not returning evil for evil. “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals his head.” (Rom 12:20). I believe Forgiveness is the highest expression of a spiritual life. This song is about forgiveness. It also is clear about whom we answer to: God, not man.

Mother Teresa is known worldwide as an icon of compassion and tireless advocate for the poor, yet she secretly battled for years through a terrible dark night of the soul. She deeply questioned her faith, her value, and her purpose. Her letters to her superiors, which she never wanted published, reveal her interior life and painful spiritual journey, and the torment and disillusionment she endured. It was decided that her writings were too important to go unpublished, due to their capacity to reach people who struggle; and to provide them consolation and encouragement by revealing her internal struggles, even amidst a great and noble mission. They did that for me.

The book Mother Teresa; Come Be My Light, The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta was published on the tenth anniversary of her death. I read it and was deeply moved.

Consider this passage in which she asks of God, “What are you doing, my God, to one so small?” In a letter to her superior, Father Picachy she writes, “Thank God all went well yesterday, Sisters, children, the lepers and sick and our poor families have all been so happy and contented this year. A real Christmas.  Yet within me – nothing but darkness, conflict, loneliness so terrible …”

In another letter she writes to Father, “It has been so very hard. That terrible longing keeps growing – and I feel as if something will break in me one day – and then that darkness, that loneliness, that feeling of terrible aloneness. Heaven from every side is closed … gone is the love for anything and anybody. – and yet – I long for God.”

Another passage reads, “… Aloneness is so great – from within and from without I find no one to turn to. He has taken not only spiritual – but even the human help. I can speak to no one and even if I do – nothing enters my soul.– If there is hell – this must be one. How terrible it is to be without God – no prayer – no faith – no love.  The only thing that still remains – is the conviction that the work is His – that the Sisters and the Brothers are His. And I cling to this as the person having nothing clings to the straw – before drowning …”

Much of what she described in her letters sounds like a form of depression, but rather than impacting her like major depression, it was expressed in the spiritual realm.

I respect Mother Teresa’s humanitarianism even more, knowing the extent to which she suffered for years from utter desolation and self-doubt. She quietly carried a cross of interior darkness, yet never stopped doing her good work. Her goal was to bring light to those living in darkness, but when all seemed to be in place, she was faced with an internal darkness that became the greatest trial of her life. That trial ultimately fueled a fundamental aspect of her mission.

In the end, she understands that without her interior darkness, without knowing such a longing for love and the pain of being unloved, and without this radical identification with the poor, she would not have won over their trust and their hearts to the extent that she did.

Her darkness became her greatest blessing; her “deepest secret” was indeed her greatest gift. The depth and meaning of her mystical experience is portrayed in this book, and I recommend it.

I hope that, like Mother Teresa, despite how you feel at any given time, and despite what surrounds you …  you find the ability to forgive, be kind, succeed, be honest, build, be happy, do good, and give your best. Anyway.

 

8 Comments

  1. Lisa, I am going to get this book for my brother. THANK YOU

  2. Thank you Lisa for sharing about Mother Teresa’s journey. I call this our “sacred wound.” I have written about this on my blog.

  3. Thank you Lisa for helping us remember our purpose as Mother Teresa’s life did also. It isn’t always easy, but I so appreciate the energy you lend to those around you to “do it Anyway.”

    • The toughest challenges I face some days pull for more of a fear based response, but refocusing on the message of this song (and a lot of prayer) helps me remember a better way. Thanks for your kind comment Mat!

  4. A W Tozer experienced similar inner pain as Mother Teresa, as indicated below.

    THE LONELINESS of THE CHRISTIAN
    by A.W. Tozer

    The loneliness of the Christian results from his walk with God in
    an ungodly world, a walk that must often take him away from the fellowship of good
    Christians as well as from that of the unregenerate world.

    His God-given instincts cry out for companionship with others of
    his kind, others who can understand his longings, his aspirations, his
    absorptions in the love of Christ; and because with his circle of friends there are few who share his
    inner experiences, he’s forced to walk alone.

    The unsatisfied longings of the prophets for human understanding
    caused them to cry out in their complaint, and even our Lord himself suffered in the same way.

    The man (or woman) who has passed on into the divine Presence
    in actual inner experience will not find many who understand him.
    He finds few who care to talk about that which is the supreme
    object of his interest, so he is often silent and preoccupied in the midst of noisy religious
    shoptalk. For this he earns the reputation of being dull and over-serious,
    so he is avoided, and the gulf between him and society widens.

    He searches for the friends upon whose garments he can detect
    the smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia out of the ivory palaces,
    and finding few or none, he, like Mary of old, keeps these things
    in his heart.

    It is this very loneliness that throws him back upon God. His
    inability to find human companionship drives him to seek in God
    what he can find nowhere else.

    If we are willing and obedient to take the narrow road and go by way of His cross, then we will experience something as these two great people of God did, in order to identify with those ones we are working alongside. May we have more people willing to be like Mother Teresa. They are too few and the harvest is so plentiful. A great article.

    God bless Alison

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