A River Worth Riding: Lesson Nine
The Power of Giving Back

I know a very sweet man who rides the river. He has trouble remembering his promises. He gives away promises without a second thought and then wonders why he can never recall them. I asked him one day what his promises were worth when he gives them away so freely.

He said, “Ouch.”

I know of a woman who works very hard at not expecting too much. Every so often, she wonders if anything worthwhile will arrive, but I doubt anything will. The river has a special current that tends to send us what we give.

I used to think that all the hype about giving was for the birds. But I had this friend who gave me a hard time, so I gave him a hard time back. I had an employer who took advantage of me; and in the end, I took advantage of him. I had a boyfriend who never listened; so finally, I stopped talking and moved on. I even had a brother who loved me unconditionally; and from him, I learned to understand unconditional love.

Yes, I used to give the river a hard time. But the river just kept giving me my hard time back, until I finally learned its secret. As you give, so shall you receive. And as you receive, so have you given. The power of contribution says that for every contribution you make to the river, you receive an equal or greater compensation.

Now, I can already hear a dozen people saying, “Oh sure, but that isn’t always the case. I worked for this idiot for twelve years and all he did was use me.” Or, “I give my children every ounce of love in my body and all I get is suffering.”

Well, if you sow a turnip, you reap a turnip.

Are you so sure of the motives behind your gifts? Are you so sure that you weren’t using your boss in some way? Are you so sure that your version of love wasn’t a strange dish of suffering for your kids? What lesson has the river been trying to teach you? Remember the powers of reflection and belief. If you’ve been giving everything to the same, ungrateful, dead-end company for ten years and you expect anything to change, then what exactly have you been giving and why? What does continuing to give everything to a company that you already know is a dead-end proposition say about you anyway?

And what about the company? What does the law of compensation say about managers who complain that their employees lack loyalty and motivation? If your employees have been disloyal, then what have you been giving to them that they may be returning in kind? If your employees lack motivation, maybe you haven’t given them any reason to be motivated. If the people around you lack respect, then perhaps you haven’t earned their respect.

If you think that the power of contribution isn’t influencing every aspect of your life, then maybe you need to look at how you define contribution. Maybe you’ve been confusing contribution with something else. Something like manipulation, taking over, making demands, hogging attention, fearing change, preaching, feeling helpless, or letting people take advantage. Believe me, whether you understand contribution or not, its power is influencing your life. This rule affects every relationship on the river. Ignore the currents of contribution, and you won’t receive the benefits of compensation.

The power of contribution says that your compensation is a direct reflection of what you’ve been contributing. So take a look at what you’ve been getting, and you’ll get a whiff of what you’ve been giving…

The principles of contribution and compensation are examined further in our companion book A River Worth Riding: Fourteen Rules for Navigating Life. Click here for ordering information.

 What’s the bottom line on compensation? We give what we get, and we get what we give. That is why, “turning the other cheek,” is so powerful. When you, “turn the other cheek,” you begin riding the currents of the river. You begin to give what you choose to give; therefore, you begin to choose what you get.

Usually, people return anger with anger, thereby receiving more anger. But “turning the other cheek” turns everything around.

“Turn the other cheek,” does not mean, please slap me in the face. “Turn the other cheek,” simply means that I will not let what you have given me, affect what I choose to give you. It means that whatever frustrations people give me, I will try to respond with something that I believe will do good. When confronted with hate, I choose to give love, thereby becoming love in action. In a very real sense, I become what I choose to give; and therefore, I get what I give. When confronted with disrespect, I choose to give respect; and soon, I begin to develop self-respect. When confronted by misunderstanding, I choose to give understanding, until I finally begin to understand.

Contribution is the most powerful rule on the river. Use it, or get used up.

A River Worth Riding: Fourteen Rules for Navigating Life
Copyright: Lynn Marie Sager 2005

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