Mother Teresa – 6 Key Life Lessons from a 100 Year Old Woman

mother teeresa

Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Mother Teresa.

She would have been 100 years old today had she not passed away in September 1997.

A while ago I wrote about the 6 key lessons in life from a 140 year old man.

Just like Mahatma Gandhi, though Mother Teresa may not be around anymore, her legacy and message of peace and love live on – something that we need in our lives more than ever before.

A while ago, I wrote about Mother Teresa and what she had to say about loneliness, love and peace

We need more compassion, understanding and acceptance of other people and their cultures. As I wrote only last week, Muslims love their children too.

(As bloggers, a lot of us already know about love and being a great lover – check out my 12 reasons why bloggers make the best lovers).

On this day of celebration of her life, what inspiration and learnings can we take from her life?

To start with, check out this wonderful YouTube video which has set some of her most inspirational words to soothing music.

(For those of you reading this via email, please click here)

No matter what your religious beliefs or your faith, we can all learn something from her life.

“There is more hunger in the world for love and appreciation in this world than for bread. We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless.

The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty. – Mother Teresa

Here are Mother Teresa’s 6 key lessons:-

1. Take Up a Great Cause

Mother Teresa spent over 60 years of her life in the slums of Calcutta and devoted all of her life to service of the poor, especially lepers, the sick, the dying and the abandoned.

It took a lot of resolve, determination and faith to keep going in the face of incredible difficulties and challenges.

She put herself through a lot of hardships – or what would seem like hardships to me and perhaps you too.

Now I am not saying that you too should devote your life to those living in slums and give up your current life of relative comforts. You just have to find your own small or grand cause.

Learn to feel the fear and change the world anyway.

I for one do like my world comforts and I am sure you do too. And you know what, that’s perfectly fine. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Just don’t be wasteful.

2. Start with Your Home and Those Around You

You don’t need to go to a remote place to make a difference. Start with your own home and community.

Also, you don’t need to make huge sacrifices or give money. Learn to contribute from the heart and not just the pocket.

If nothing else, just spend a bit of time with those are lonely and alone. And of course, start in your own home:-

“It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start” – Mother Teresa

Finally remember that peace in the world begins with you, your home and your children:-

“Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on, so that children have very little time for their parents.

Parents have very little time for each other, and in the home begins the disruption of peace of the world” – Mother Teresa

3. Have a Solid Personal Foundation

Mother Teresa had a solid foundation that kept her going through all the turmoil and challenges in her life – her strong faith.

It has been well documented how throughout her life she faced personal doubts about her faith and how she ran her missions. But her core values of love and wanting to serve others kept her going.

In your life, you too need a strong personal foundation to build your life on.

“In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love” – Mother Teresa

What are your core beliefs and values? What will you never compromise on?

And if you were to follow the path set by Mother Teresa, just what would you do?

(Please share your answers below in comments)

4. Create a Tribe

Once you are aligned to a great cause and you have a core foundation, you would do well to create a following or as it’s more fashionably described nowadays, a tribe.

I guess we have Seth Godin to thank for that.

Mother Teresa was lucky in that she had the backing and resources of a vast and powerful organisation, her church. On the back of that she created Missionaries of Charity – a group of devoted sisters who carried out work and spread her message of love and compassion around Calcutta in India, and then ultimately around the world. A lot of work focussed on looking after the poor and unwanted.

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.” – Mother Teresa

Part of creating a tribe is to be media savvy and Mother Teresa always capitalised on any opportunity to promote her cause and to raise funds.

Just think what she would have done with all the social media tools at her behest!

5. Ride Through Controversy

When you take on a big challenge or commit to any cause, you often run into controversy and conflict.

Mother Teresa went through a lot of controversy and criticism about her style and method of helping.

But she rode through them and remained committed to her faith and work.

In your own life, you too may face some challenges to your authority and integrity. Learn to look through people’s hidden agendas and remain true to your cause.

If need be, take time out for yourself and reaffirm that you are truly on your chosen path. It’s also okay to change course if it feels like the right thing to do so.

6. Keep Smiling and Loving

Mother Teresa’s most endearing and enduring qualities were her ability to keep smiling and loving, even faced with the harshest of challenges.

If you come from a place of love and with a mindset of helping, then somehow you will find the ability and internal resources to do so. Somehow things will just work out for you.

“Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”Mother Teresa

Indeed, the key message of Mother Teresa’s life really was about love. As she said so eloquently:-

“If we want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out. To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.”

So how can you spread this love message around the world?

You can do so by following Mother Teresa’s 6 key life lessons and by looking to spread your love in whatever small or large way that feels right for you.

As she said, learn to do ordinary things with extraordinary love.

The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread. – Mother Teresa

Launch of “Love is all that matters”

As for my part, today I am delighted to announce the soft launch of my new website – Love is all that matters.

For now, this is only a simple page inviting you to sign up for my daily email messages about love. I am currently writing an ebook about love and relationships which will be available in a few weeks.

Please do sign up and on Mother Teresa’s 100th birthday, help me spread her message about love and compassion. This is just the sort of birthday present she would have liked!

And please do also share via your comments which one or more of her 6 key lessons you will begin to apply from today in your life.

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  1. What a treat to find out about your daily email messages and planned ebook! I have to confirm my subscription yet, but I didn’t waste a second in signing up. If anyone knows a lot about putting more love out into this world, it’s you Arvind! You are living so many of Mother Teresa’s teachings and I’m happy and blessed to know you.

  2. Andrea DeBell - britetalk says

    Hi Arvind! Mother Teresa has always been my idol. Her selfless work has inspired me to start a foundation for kids in Brazil. It’s a lot of work with many trials but it’s well worth it. My heart sings when I talk about the foundation.

    I’ve signed up for your lovely messages. I can’t wait for your second ebook. If it’s anything like your first ebook, it will be a hit!
    Loving blessings.

    • Thanks Andrea for sharing about your foundation’s work in Brazil. I can tell how passioante you are about it.

      As for the Love is All that Matters project, I can’t wait to get it established and send out my daily messages. Watch this space…:-)

  3. Arvind,
    This was just beautiful! You always know how to tug on our heart-strings. Mother Theresa was a wonderful example of compassion, unconditional love and generosity. Were we to incorporate just one of her character traits into our lives the world would be immeasurably better. You already make the world a better place Arvind!

    • Thanks Angela for your kind words.

      Mother Teresa certainly was a great example of compassion, unconditional love and generosity.

      Can you imagine how the world would be transformed if we were to just encompass at least one of her great qualities?

  4. Hi Arvind,

    I’m always impressed by the high quality of your blog posts and how much resonance I feel with the messages that they deliver. I’ve been fortunate enough to discover my cause in creating a regenerative agriculture, and hope that I can pursue it with the passion that shines through in your work. Keep on inspiring!

    • Thanks Brad and great to connect with you.

      Having just looked at your blog, I would say that your passion ia already shining through. Good luck, my friend, with converting your car to biofuel:-)

  5. Arvind,

    Mother Teresa had her share of controversy like you said, we should learn from positives!

    Congratulations on your guest post, new site and upcoming ebook! so many reasons to celebrate!

  6. Abubakar Jamil says

    I love what Mother Teresa did and love your post. Thank you for writing it and sharing with us my dear friend.

  7. Annie Stith (@Gr8fulAnnie) says

    Hey, Arvind!

    I think you make such great points from the life example of Mother Theresa. I believe it all starts at home with the children, and that the most important of all things we can gift them with are time, attention, and love.

    I don’t have children myself, but I have plenty of family (both blood and chosen) who do. Growing up with a family heritage of abuse and incest, I have made it a point to “break the cycle,” including calling out my own family when necessary.

    That passion for saving the children has, through my own healing, grown into a passion to “save the adults.” So many who were wounded as children continue to carry those wounds with them, even after years of healing work. It’s my mission to help those people move on into a life where brokenness is no longer central — to live “the rest of their lives,” where they learn to accept and adjust to their scars, finding a new Path that might very well have been “Plan A” all along.

    I may or may not ever make a living at it (I hope to), but that’s not my motivation. I, too7n love people. That love calls me to do whatever I can.


    • Thanks Annie for your deep personal insights.

      It certainly starts at home with the children and how the best things we can give them are our time, attention and love.

      Like you, I don’t have children myself, but I too have many family and friends with kids who almost feel like my own.

      Wonderful that you are able to transcend your own learnings, experience and healing into helping others do the same.

      I love your noble mission to help people get back on to their original “Plan A” – and wish you all the best with it. And I am also sure that you will make a living out of it:-)

  8. Mother Teresa is my all time favorite person and how blessed I have been to live in her time. I used to dream of working with her in the soup kitchen when I was a lot younger. I never did but a friend of mine peeled carrots with her.

    I love all about her and read all books about her.

    I love this quote (one of all of them;) and relate this to the life of a blogger. We have many “far away” friends that are easy to love. This reminds me to keep my relationships at home with family and friends the no. 1 priority in my life. Do you think she saw into the future and the risk us bloggers take on missing the love in front of us due to our time spent blogging on line?

    “It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start” – Mother Teresa

    Thanks for this wonderful article! I’m grateful.

  9. Thanks for sharing Tess – I can now say that I have a blogger friend who has a friend who peeled carrots with Mother Teresa!

    You are so right about us bloggers in danger of missing out on the love in front of us. The love and affection from bloggers around the world, though so warming and welcome, is still no substitute for the love right in front of us.

    Thanks Tess for sharing that beautiful quote from Mother Teresa.

    And thanks too for all your love – it’s most welcome. Please keep it coming:-)

  10. Dear Arvind,

    I love the name of your new site. I am continually awed by how much love exists and how we can generate love by cultivating it in ourselves.

    What better arrangement than that could the universe have? And we get to be here soaking it all in and contributing our love. For now, I’m satisfied remembering to cultivate love each day as best I can.

    I appreciate your always bringing us back to the place of remembering love and I’m excited about your new site.

    Thanks, Arvind, for keeping your focus on love and shining the beacon.

    The video of Mother Theresa was beautiful. I especially loved the photo of her holding the infant as they gaze into one another’s eyes.


    • Dear Lauren,

      Welcome back to my blog!

      Glad you like the Mother Teresa video and the idea of the new site.

      You are clearly already living and basking in your message of love – may you continue to teach many more people via your blog

      Thanks for the inspiration, Lauren.

  11. Harry Singha says

    hey Bro
    Love it, thanks for the reminder
    stay blessed

  12. Hi Arvind,
    This post is very touching! It is absolutely beautiful. I was examining myself about things in my life and this really helped me see things in a different way.

    Glad to hear about your new site. I will head over and check it out.

    Thank you for such an inspiring post!

    Take care,


    • Thanks Evelyn, good to see you here again.

      I am glad Mother Teresa helped see things in a different way.

      My new “Love Is All That Matters” site is a work in progress and will be wrapped up soon:-)

  13. Aloha Arvind!
    What a way to begin my day. I had tears streaming down my face watching the video of Mother Teresa.

    I am reminded that the work I do heals not only a physical disease but a deeper more painful hunger for the divine connection of love. Divine hunger is actually the disease it simply manifests as an eating disorder.

    Personally I have been inspired and fed by the far off blog world and that has given me the strength and inner calm to love those right in front of me. We all need to refresh, thank you Arvind for digging a well.

    With Great Love,

    • Gina, as you say, what a way to begin the day!

      I am sorry if I made you cry first thing in the morning – bit they were nice tears:-)

      We all do need to refresh – lets keep srpeading hte love that is in us and around us.

      Great love back to you, Gina.

  14. My favorite line: Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.” – Mother Teresa
    Thank you Arvind for the dedication to Mother Teresa and for educating us as I knew very little about her life and her beautiful quotes. A beautiful dedication!

  15. Hi Arvind,
    This is so beauty filled–thank you! Mother Teresa is so amazing to me, she selflessly gave on levels many find uncomfortable..She was *Love* example to us all..not asking for magnificent, just asking that we Love..
    In my life, I focus on peace and promoting peace within, for I find out of peace grows all else..I cannot fully experience Love, Joy, Hope, Beauty, Passion..etc..if I am not first peace filled.. I live peace filled, and I ‘serve’ others by opening my heart and seeing the person for who they are…I see you Being to Being..which is relieving to some who have never been ‘seen’’s humbling and joy filled…
    Arvind..*you* are amazing..the message you spread, the inspiration you share, the Energy you use to create..all amazing..I am most appreciative because you touch hearts and impact lives..thank you for that!

    • Joy, welcome to my blog again.

      Glad this article resonated with you – Mother Teresa was indeed love personified.

      Looking at what you do and what your write about, she would have been really moved by you.

      And thanks so much for all your kind words – I am really overwhelmed. I don’t know what more to say:-)

  16. Joe Wilner says

    Mother Teresa is surely one of the most respectable figures in history. She is a true lselfless leader. She did what most could never do because of such a profound passion to serve others. She had an unrelenting mission and started a revolution and dedicated here life to it, despite accounts that she was actually unhappy in her life. She was not willing to accept the sad nature of society and sacfrificed concrete personal gain for this. She simply wanted to helpb others. Thanks for the inspiring post.

    • Welcome to my blog Joe.

      Mother Teresa was indeed one of the most respectable figures in history, and indeed was voted as one of the human beings of the 20th century.

      If only more of us could apply just a few of her lessons in our life, our world would be transformed.

  17. jonathanfigaro says

    Love is one of the most powerful emotions we can express as human beings. If we dedicate ourselves to love one another, or just love what we do. The wonders of the paths we take and the achievements we accomplish will send our mind tumbling down possibility avenue only to park on the side of regret ( for not doing this sooner) and Get over it Blvd ( because now is what matters.)

    • Welcome to my blog, Jonathan.

      For someone so young, you certainly have a wide head on your shoulders. The world needs more young people to pick up the baton from Mother Teresa and carry on her work.

      I wish you all the best for your work and your life.

  18. Sibyl - alternaview says

    Arvind: I absolutely LOVED this post and that video was so powerful. Thanks for sharing it and thanks for the inspiration. You made so many great points in this post and what stuck out most to me was how within the grasp it is of all of us to take up a great cause and make something change for the better. It is so true that we can really do things that will have such a positive impact right in our own back yard. I really also liked the 6 Lessons you shared. Thanks for the inspiration and motivation.

    • Welcome back to my blog, Sybil!

      I am glad you liked that video – possibly one of the most powerful clips I have seen for a while.

      As you say, it is indeed within the grasp of all of us to take up a great cause and make something change for the better.

      Let’s start with our back yard first.

  19. Rachel, thanks for sharing your lovely post about Mother Teresa’s 8 point plan for personal peace.

    Let’s get her message out there – I just tweeted your article:-)

  20. i’m a atheist, but this woman had me ever impressed. since a suicid attempt i have so much learned from her.
    sincery from germany

  21. Love is the greatest possession one could share. Love is being mature to understand one another. Teaching each other to grow is what is called love.

    • Arvind Devalia says

      Fiona, indeed love is the greatest possession we can share.

      And love is all that matters:-)

  22. Rubin Holtan says

    The only way to get through is to focus on the small beautiful moments that we can find in our lives. There’s a lot of negativity in the media and horrible things going on around the world.

    When you lack faith in a deity or an afterlife, love becomes more amazing in some ways, but more fragile in others, and eclipsed by worry for that fragility.

    If you have a big mission, you need to have faith in something though or everything else will fall apart in the challenges.

  23. Hello

    I alwaz thought of commiting suicide once i had break up with my relation with a very decent man. Still leaving want to work for my world society and poor needy but dont have funds to start with all.

    I believe its only mother’s love is true luv other relations can break at any moment still u try hard to maintain good relations in life. I want to be truly luv feel alone need to talk but no one understand my emotion my feeling.

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