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May the world be kind to you, and may your own thoughts be gentle upon yourself. - Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pay It Forward - as an Expression of Universal Gratitude

While many of us recognize the expression "Pay It Forward" from the 2000 movie of that name, the concept is an ancient one. Benjamin Franklin described the process:

I do not pretend to give such a Sum; I only lend it to you. When you meet with another honest Man in similar Distress, you must pay me by lending this Sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the Debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity. I hope it may thus go thro' many hands, before it meets with a Knave that will stop its Progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money.

The actual words "pay it forward" are used to describe this sequence by Robert Heinlein in a 1951 novel - perhaps the first use of this phrase.

We have reason to have infinite gratitude to the Universe for everything we have and everything we are, yet we cannot repay the Universe. We have gratitude for our distant ancestors, yet cannot repay them. We have gratitude to our parents for our very life, and to our parents or other caregivers for our nurture, yet we cannot repay them in kind. We may have many other gratitudes that, for one reason or another, cannot be repaid to those who were so generous to us.

Pay It Forward. Gift future generations in proportion to our gratitude. The nature of life is that we pay forward our biological creation and nurture. Our parents gift us with life and nurture, and we gift our children with life and nurture. While this much is essential to continued human existence, choose to take "pay it forward" farther - much farther.

Consider making "pay it forward" a way of life. As we have observed many times, expectation (demand) is always a cause of suffering. Rather than "expecting" to be repaid when we "loan" something to someone, consider the "loans" we make to be forward payments for the "loans" we received from our ancestors, nurturers and others. Request that any "loan" that we make be repaid FORWARD, when the recipient is able, and then completely forget about the "loan." It is no longer our business if, when, or how the "loan" is repaid - or is not repaid.


  1. Very excellent motto for everyone to live by
    May your rewards arrive in heaven before you do!

  2. i am in AA and the 11th month is graditude nonth this article has taught me a lot of how people think about gratitude out side of AA

  3. I hvae lived my whole adult life by PAYING IT FORWARD, I have never been sorry HAPPY TRAILS

  4. I truly believe in that,and it gives me an amazing feeling when I see the happiness that I brought to that person,it's really a great thing!!! SO MAKE SOMEONES DAY,PAY IT FORWARD

  5. life is a cycle. we receive something that we cannot return in full. we have so much to be grateful for and we can only say it in words. that is why we must not regret doing something good for others. make it a solemn gesture to give and not to expect any reward or payback. we ought to be thankful more that ever for just having a life to live. just by loving and caring for one another is the best way of paying forward.

  6. My wonderful father always said never "loan" more that you can afford to give away... that way there are no hard feeling if the friend or family member can't "pay back the loan"... be thankful for what you have and be grateful you could help someone else along their way... he was extremely wise... I lost him in 1987 and I still tell people this "tidbit" about this wonderful and understanding man !!!

  7. We make a living by what we do. We make make a life by what we give. You can not have the perfect day unless you have done something for somebody unconditionally.

  8. Helping in whatever way you can help makes miracles unfold for others.
    That's my motto in life - give...give... give.

  9. Living in oneness brings harmony and sense of understading your fellow human race regadless of origions.

  10. I feel enriched and nourished by doing this and in its power, feel empowered


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