The Mother Teresa Paradox

When thinking of the concept of helping others, Mother Teresa would spring to mind as the quintessential paragon of putting others before herself, and the antithesis of pursuing self-interest.

Yet to characterize Mother Teresa’s primary motivation as something other than self-interest dishonors the memory of one of the greatest people to walk this earth.

Let me explain:

Whether you are a psychologist, logician, police detective or just a rational thinker, if you consider the issue more than an inch deep, you realize that, if your theory is that Mother Teresa acted counter to her self-interest, you must conclude that she really did not like helping all the people she did.

Running with this theory, there’s no other option but to infer that she hated every moment of helping those dirty, disgusting children, that she resented them for occupying her time, and she would rather be doing anything but what she was doing. Only those conclusions are congruent with the theory that she was acting counter to her self-interest. What a horrible, dishonorable way to characterize such an amazing woman and person!

The opposite theory, and the one I believe, is that she loved every minute of helping those kids, that she found her mission immensely self-fulfilling and rewarding, that her work filled her with joy, and that every smile on every child’s face that she saved from certain death brought her overwhelming happiness. In other words, she did what she did because it was her way of pursuing her own happiness and self-interest. Only that theory is deserving of Mother Teresa’s amazing legacy of giving and charity.


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