How to Pay it Forward

By M.W. Whitaker

So many people view being kind and charitable as being grandiose. A corporation gives a million dollars to a 501c3 and they buy themselves a bunch of good, free press. However, there are ways to be good to others that don’t necessarily involve breaking the bank. For example, every now and then, when you have spare change, drop it in a drink machine or a snack machine, and don’t buy anything with it. Don’t stick around for any gratification, just go about your business. The next person who comes along gets a drink or a snack on you. They might pay it forward themselves, and buy something for the next person, or they might keep the change, either way, you’ve spread some good.Someone you love needs financial help? Help them if you can, and don’t lord it over them when you do it. Here’s the kicker about paying it forward, though. Don’t let anyone take advantage of you.

Help cheerfully, and what you can do, but don’t let it get to the point where you play the martyr. If you let someone take advantage of you, sooner or later, you will resent them. If you resent them, you will come to view them the way a lot of “charitable” Christian people have viewed others in need: as a burden. When you start feeling that way, stop giving. Why? Because then it isn’t altruism, it is pretty much like a job. The reason altruistic behavior is often so hard to keep up is that people’s egos and emotions overwhelm their compassion.

So remember, it is up to you how you can help people. Give to causes that you believe in, whether or not they are tax-deductible or not. If you can’t help someone with money, help them by listening to them. You might be surprised to find that not everyone wants you to solve their problems. They merely want someone to listen to them.

We all have a finite amount of resources in our lives. So use those resources wisely, and whenever possible find ways to save yourself a bit of good karma in the future. Play it close to the vest, and remember, pay it forward.

Let’s Talk About Love

by M.W. Whitaker

Ah, l’amour.  Love is an emotion that transcends borders, social strata, and even time.  Even someone who seems not to need it, both craves and treasures love.  To give you an idea of how much we value love, over 85% of songs that you hear are about love.  Love is one of the most complex emotions around.  Love is so complex that there are different classifications of love.  There is filial love, which is the love for a friend.   There is familial love, which is the love for your family; and of course, there is romantic love, which probably needs no explanation.

Love is even more complex than you might think.  The way movies cause us to perceive love is a linear flow, where two people fight their feelings for one another, but sooner or later, there is an epiphany, both characters usually run to each other’s arms, there is a stirring romantic score, and we reach for the tissues after they go off into the sunset together.

But love is both wonderful and terrible, harsh and gentle, and even has its own flow and ebb.  It’s not an accident that the ancient Greeks believed that Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love was born of chaos.  It is also noteworthy that some depictions of Aphrodite portray her as Aphrodite of the Tombs, almost as a death goddess.  Why?  Well, first off, love for all of it’s beauty has a darker side as well.  Love can motivate people to do things that they would never do for anyone else.  If one falls in love with the wrong person, that love can in turn lead them to their end.   But why do we do it?  Why do we become vulnerable to someone, let down all of our carefully crafted defenses and let that person in our heart and our life?  Well, this video clip from The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996) sums it up rather nicely, I think.   While this whole clip is excellent, the most relevant part is from the 3:24 mark forward:

If you have not seen the movie, one of the most important things that the movie also brings up is the importance of learning to love yourself. And that is the real thing to think about on Valentine’s Day, but perhaps a little more than that. Instead of buying someone flowers, gifts, and treating them like someone special for one day out of 365, maybe do that more often. Realize that love always and ever shall be, a gift, and one that is precious and rare. But if it is a gift, who do we give it to, when there is no one willing to receive it, or able to? Then you have to give it to the one person who matters, at the risk of sounding selfish. You have to give it to yourself.

Every chance you can, look at yourself in the mirror. Tell yourself how beautiful you look, regardless of your gender, because the word beautiful is infinitely more powerful than terms such as handsome, good looking, etc. Tell yourself that you believe in yourself. Then with emphasis, say “Now, go out and get ’em.” If you make this a habit, you will find that you have cast a truly powerful spell on yourself. You will find that you approach a lot more situations with confidence, whether that be with a potential date, a new business opportunity, or even a day at work. You have to follow up these expressions of love with real action. Start exercising a bit, and taking care of yourself. Treat yourself as you would like others to treat you, with dignity, respect, and kindness.  After a while, you won’t be just okay with yourself, you’ll be happy with yourself. But what do you do with all that love? Sooner or later, it has to go somewhere, so where does it go? Maybe start showing love for others in small ways. Pay it forward whenever you can, hold open the door for someone coming behind you. Smile at strangers and say hello and good morning every now and then. When we love ourselves and send that love out, the world starts to change around us. There is also, a funny thing to note about the power of self-love.

It is often counter intuitive, but where love is concerned, the more hungry we are for it, the less likely we are to receive it; and when we are okay without it, or even ambivalent towards it, it often appears. I don’t know if you will ever find love with another person. But give a lot of love to yourself. You are worth it.

-M.W. Whitaker
Valentine’s Day, 2017

Other Resources:

“A Seven-Step Prescription for Self-Love” by Deborah Khoshaba Psy.D, Psychology Today, March 27, 2012. []

“What Self-Love Means: 20+ Ways to Be Good to Yourself” by Banu Sekendur, Tiny Buddha, March 2014 []

The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996) , Barbra Streisand, Jeff Bridges.  Available through multiple sources, including the Maricopa County Library District (free checkout)