Payback is a beautiful thing, isn’t it?
You wait and you wait and you wait for the right opportunity, and then, BAMO, you blindside someone with a healthy dose of comeuppance. Gorgeous. Just gorgeous.
I had the priveledge of attending the VU Management Retreat (Aside: I mangage precisely one person and that is me, and find myself to be unruly and difficult to lead) the other day when University of Missouri coaching legend Norm Stewart said one of those things I hope stays with me. You know, one of those things you jot down even though you are definitely not a note-taker? The kind of thing you tell yourself to cling to and live by? The kind of thing, sadly, I usually leave behind at the conference, along with my wallet that I have to later return to pick-up from the night custodian—he never seems to deliver the quote when handing off my forgotten wallet.
But this time the quotable sentiment stuck, at least it has so far. And this was the thing the old rambling coach so winsomely said:
“Live your life with payback in mind. Pay back everyone!”
I liked this. It seemed cruel and hard and tough. No one will walk over me, my heart cried out, shaking its little heart-arm fist.
But then Stormin’-Norman kept thundering right along:
“Pay ‘em back for the good,” he said, my heart sinking for guilt and obligation. “Think of all the people who’ve invested in you, believed in you, loved you . . . and pay them back—goodness for goodness.”
Well, that just isn’t as grabby, now is it? Usually I spend most of my time hating and plotting against my enemies and totally forgetting my friends. But this advice—especially coupled with my Christian beliefs—well it almost makes life unlivable. You’re telling me now I have to love my enemies—thanks a lot, Jesus!—and remember to love and show gratitude to those who have shown me love . . . well, there just aren’t enough hours in the day for all this goodwill! Sure, I’d be willing to lose sleep and work hard toward nastiness or selfishness, but this goodness thing, it just doesn’t fire me up as much.
But it kept on echoing throughout my head and my week, Pay ‘em back. Pay ‘em back. Pay ‘em back.
I’m not sure how to go about this. I started with a box of thank you cards. I also made a goal of having sent double the emails that I receive in the course of the day. I send emails thanking folks for a smile they provided me with or a joke they made or how they inspired me. It isn’t any big deal, but in some ways, I think, it might be precisely a big deal. I mean how many folks out there are living to repay goodness? How many of us are tangibly looking for ways to bless others without a single ulterior motive in mind? And how does it feel when someone really pays goodness into your life? How needed? How refreshing? Unfortunately, how rare?
I know this goodness-paying mindset is seldom the case in my life, but I want it to be. I want, at the end of my tired days, to be marked by a life committed to gratitude, one lived to pay others back with good, whether they deserved it or not.
And yes, I know I will fail at this. But truly that is the only way it would be any good anyway—if at the end of it, there is no end, no success, no profit . . . just a life wasted away on the pursuit of peace and goodness for other people.
Now, that is a life worth living. That is the life I want. So if I haven’t paid you back yet I’m sorry, and I truly hope I’ll have my revenge sometime very soon.