Mother Teresa: Through the lens of Humanism and with the eyes of Maslow

Posted on February 22, 2016


Mother Teresa Praying

01 Jul 1988, Tijuana, Mexico — Nobel Peace Prize winner praying during dedication ceremonies at her 400th world wide mission, in Tijuana, Mexico, to care for the poor. The Tijuana mission will shelter the homeless, the terminally ill and unwed mothers. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

(I recently wrote this for my Psychology course… a minor case study…)

Humanism is a psychology theory that centers on the personal worth and inner value of an individual. Maslow, beginning first in the field of Behaviorism, became the “leading humanistic psychologist who inspired much positive societal change” (Friedman & Schustack, 2012, p. 302) The idea of self-actualization along with the Maslow Hierarchy of needs is what Maslow is known best for, as Maslow promoted studying of the ideal healthy life and the positive he believed was inherent in all of us.  Creatively independent Maslow turned the view from the mentally unhealthy individual to the extremely mentally healthy individual.

Through this lens and with those eyes, I attend to assess case study two: Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa, originally Agnes of Skopje [current Macedonia], new as an early child that she was called to be a sister (Kelly-Gangi, 2009). To be called is similarly understood as the internal push for self-actualization in the world of psychology. Through her life, she was on a path of intentional spiritual growth and reaching the lives of others, especially the less fortunate and un-loveable. From the mouth of Mother Teresa, God is known as her creator and guide. Her purposed desire to seek Him brought her into spiritual fulfillment that few ever experience. She knew herself and more importantly the One who, she believed called her to a life of sacrifice, compassion, servitude, and most of all love.

According to the humanistic approach, an individual that is self-actualized:

         Has realistic knowledge of themselves…

o   “God loves me. I’m not here to fill a place, just to be a number. He has chosen me for a purpose. I know it.”—M.Teresa (Kelly-Gangi, 2009)

         Are independent…

o   “I remember when I was leaving home fifty years ago—my mother was dead set against me leaving home and becoming a sister. In the end, when she realized that this was what God wanted from her and from me, she said something very strange:’ Put your hand in his and walk alone with him.’ This is exactly our way of life. We may be surrounded by many people, yet our vocation is really lived out alone with Jesus.”—M.Teresa  (Kelly-Gangi, 2009)

         Accept themselves…

o   “I don’t claim anything of the work. It is His work. I am like a little pencil in his hand. That’s all. He does the thinking. He does the writing. The pencil has nothing to do with it. The pencil has nothing to do with it. The pencil has only to be allowed to be used.” –M. Teresa in TIME magazine interview 1989 (as cited in Kelly-Gangi, 2009)

         Highly Ethical…

o   “I choose the poverty of our poor. But I am proud to receive it (the Nobel) in the name of [all those she served]…”—M. Teresa, October 1979 (Kelly-Gangi, 2009)

Mother Theresa believed to tend to the soul you must tend to the basic needs. In this way you gain permission to be where it is the most intimate. Just as Maslow would have chosen working out the Maslow’s Hierarchy (McLeod, 2014).

Kelly-Gangi, C. (2009) Mother Teresa: her essential wisdom. Fall Rivers Press. ISBN-13:978-0-7607-8020-6

Mcloed, S. (2014) Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. SimplyPsychology. Retrieved from:   


This was a minor case study that was intended not to conjure up debate but to help us, who are learning to utilize our understanding of personality psychology theories. I am not committing these to fact or positioning Maslow as a theorist I am profoundly drawn to as a woman of faith, however I can learn, ponder, and propose thought. I wanted to add this as I did not post this for debate but for my intended practice of writing, thinking and learning in my “just write” journey. Thank you and I hope that you have a great day tending to your adventures.


Posted in: Journey, Thoughts