The Importance of Paying It Backward

How often do you experience something great, read something hilarious, or see something beautiful and just tuck that experience in your back pocket and continue on with your day? I do it a lot and I realized the other day what a bummer it is to let a great experience just die there.

We are all familiar with the concept of “Paying it Forward” – the idea that when someone does or says something nice to you, you in turn pay it forward to the next person as a way to keep the positivity moving forward. This is a beautiful concept and something we should all strive for, but aren’t we forgetting someone? What about the person who did the nice thing? They get bupkis?

I honestly never thought about this before, but I had a little AHA moment when a complete stranger stumbled across my blog and took the time to email me that she enjoyed it. It was such a simple thing, but I was totally floored that someone would take the time to actually locate my email address and thoughtfully write to me, just to let me know that my blog made her laugh. It’s such a little thing, but it completely made my day. And it made me think about how many times I experienced something great and simply smiled and moved on with my life, never repaying the favor. If I had taken a moment to say, “Hey, thanks for making me smile today!” I could have made THAT person’s day, like mine was made.

So many times I find myself hovering over the blog comments section wanting to post a response to the story that inspired me, but I get all nervous and chicken out at the last minute! So I go about my world, reading hilarious blogs, seeing gorgeous art, eat at inspirationally delicious restaurants and just keep all that joy to myself. I never complete the circle and return the gift! I vowed today to stop being so selfish with my gratitude. I will make it my mission to acknowledge those who inspire me. And I encourage you to do the same.

Because, here’s the sad truth, there are so many good people who put themselves out there in the world with whatever their talents are and they get nothing but radio silence, or worse, an endless stream of negativity for their trouble. It seems that the negative responses are always more prolific and more enthusiastic whereas those who appreciate the content don’t speak up to say so. Why is this?!? Why does it seem easier to tear something down than to give it a nod? Who decided that the more critical we are, the more intelligent or discerning we seem? Why can’t we promote and appreciate a wide range of things? Wouldn’t our lives be so much richer if we appreciated the positive in all things?

For those who put themselves out there, all of that silence or negativity can be overwhelming. Without a little positive to offset the negative, it gets increasingly difficult to continue to try. So all of those times that I hesitated and didn’t provide that positive feedback, I allowed the negativity to be the ONLY voice heard. Shame on me.

So, it got me thinking, what if each time you experience something that makes you smile, you took a second to let that person know how it made you feel, just imagine the happiness you could spread? All it takes is a little nod of appreciation and BAM! Happiness circle is completed. If everyone took a moment to spread the positives, our world would be so much the better for it! So go ahead, pay it forward, spread the happy to others, but don’t forget to pay it BACKWARD too.

Note: When I wrote this originally, I did not realize that there were already two definitions of “Paying it Backward” out there. One in reference to purchasing coffee for the next person in line at the drive-thru window, which is super nice, so do that too! And also the Urban Dictionary definition, which is definitely NOT nice, so please DON’T do that. Lesson learned: beware the dangers of unintentionally using urban slang.