Monday, April 16, 2012

Pay it Forward

Every man according as he purposeth in his heart,
so let him give;
not grudgingly, or of necessity:
for God loveth a cheerful giver.

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you;
that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things,
may abound to every good work:

2 Corinthians 9:7-8

I’ve been thinking a lot about the seasons of womanhood and motherhood, and it got me thinking about a certain friend of mine who always seems to be helping me out, but who never seems to need my help.

I thought back to when my second child was born, and I was suddenly the mother of a barely 2-year-old and a brand new baby. I didn't do much of anything. I barely cleaned the house, and I mostly just sat around reading books, nursing, and sitting with my kids on the trampoline while V jumped around merrily, and J nursed merrily. There were a lot of days when my friend would have V over for a play date so I could stay home and rest with J (one particular time was when I had a nasty infection, and I just needed to sleep and nurse).

I remember thinking about how badly I wanted to repay my friend, but it never seemed like she needed anything from me (she still seems that way to me - we are still very good friends, and it always seems like she takes care of me more than I take care of her).

Image Credit: WPW

After several months of this friend helping me with absolutely no way to "pay her back" I realized that this life is not about "getting even" with people who help us. It's about using our resources to help those we can help, and accepting help from those with resources to help us. As the scripture I quoted above says, God will make “all grace abound toward” us (send us people to help us out) so that we will have sufficient for our needs, and we will be able to help others and do good things. He doesn’t say “that ye will be able to serve them that have served you in the same capacity in which they have served you.”

And so I decided that I was going to "pay it forward" and help anyone I had resources to help.

I have since had many experiences where a friend has said the same thing to me. "I feel like you help me so much, but I have nothing to give in return!" And I gently explain to them, "You don't need to feel like you need to repay me for the things I do to help you. Some day you will be in a position to help someone, so just help them.

I am at a period in my life when I am able to help a lot of people while not needing much help myself. I am in a relatively emotionally stable state, my children are a little older, and my husband has a really good, stable job. I have lots that I can give, emotionally, spiritually, and temporally. But I know that my life won’t always be that way, and there will be times when I will have to accept help, emotionally, spiritually, and temporally.

Have you ever felt like you needed to “pay back” someone who had helped you, but realized that they didn’t have any needs you could fill? How do you “pay it forward” when you are shown grace and kindness by others?


  1. This is a lovely way to express what I think is a very common thought. We tend to think in economic terms about things that aren't economic, and certainly giving, loving, and helping aren't reducible to numbers and equations. Looking at our world as God does, the "pay it forward" concept is the most efficient way for us to improve the world! He can send a blessing to one area, and let us take care of it moving to other areas of greatest need, and if we all learn to pay it forward, that one blessings moves to compound and bless a host of people!

    I have been on both sides of that silly equation myself, and in my 40s I'm only just now beginning to really understand this. Wish I'd known sooner, because that business of writing mental and emotional equations is taxing.

  2. Interesting way of looking at it. We moved to Utah from CA about 6 years ago, and are still some of the only ones we know without family near. One of the reasons we have experienced that friends don't need us to repay their kindnesses - they have family here, and they tend to get that help from their family first (which makes oodles of sense; I'd do the same if I had family near).

    I like your idea of paying it forward instead of (or in addition to) paying it back. But at the same time, I love it when those people who have served our family allow me to serve them, even when they could ask their family first. Not allowing me to serve them makes me very hesitant to ask for help.

    1. "Not allowing me to serve them makes me very hesitant to ask for help." This is exactly what I have been trying to overcome in the past several years. Just because you can't help someone doesn't mean you shouldn't let them help you :)

      My dad used to say "Don't deny others the blessings they will receive from serving you." I come from a very self-reliant family - we don't like letting other people help us, we like to do it "on our own" and so it's hard to ask for help. Thus my dad's good advice. And I think it applies here, too. Just because someone else denies you the opportunity to serve them doesn't mean you should deny them that same opportunity ;)

      That friend who helped me so much when I had my 2nd child still lives near me (we were both living in CA at the time, and now we live in UT, ironically) and I thought for sure I was going to be able to help her now that my kids are older, but now that we live in UT she has lots of family around, so I don't usually get to help - and she still helps me out all the time! I'm just used to it. We do get together to do fun things (I don't just use her - although sometimes I feel like I do!) and so we are good friends, and the point is that she knows she could come to me for help if she needed it. I think knowing that someone is there to serve should the need arise is more important than the actual serving sometimes. :)

  3. I think I've been on both sides of that equation and once you can just accept that that is how it should work, it works beautifully. I think it allows the service to multiply, as your diagram indicates. It is hard to be the recipient all the time and feel that type of moochy guilt. I think the key is finding/developing a relationship where you have the opportunity to do the serving.
    I have experienced both in the last couple of months and I really am blessed in and value both friendships.


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