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Pay it Forward

By Winn Claybaugh

Sometimes you're not nice and, for whatever reason, you can't go back and apologize to people for having been mean, malicious, or unkind to them. The main thing to realize is that feeling guilty will only delay and obstruct the lessons and practices of becoming a nicer person. It seems and feels better to recognize that you blew it and vow to make it right for the next person you come into contact with by paying it forward.

In her wonderful book, Pay It Forward, Catherine Ryan Hyde wrote that even though you cant always pay back the people who have helped you along the way, you can pay it forward to someone else. You can build up a spiritual and good karma bank account, so to speak, so the help and kindness continue to flow.

In a similar way, you can pay it forward as a way to make up for the apologies you werent able to deliver to the people you've wronged. If your bad experiences with addiction, divorce, abuse, or whatever caused you to not be nice in the past, but have since helped you to open your mind, soften your heart, and let go of judgments and prejudices, then good for you. Perhaps you won't be able to use your new life skills with the people you wronged while going through those experiences, but you'll be able to use them with future relationships. I'd like to tell you a story about what can happen when you pay it forward.

Years ago, I went to dinner with a good friend of mine who, like some people, has a tendency to feel down a lot of the time. He was telling me about a seminar hed attended, where the speaker had said that if you want to be happy, just silently in your mind send this message to every person you come in contact with: I love you. My friend left the seminar thinking, Well, that was pretty stupid. I came to this seminar to get some good advice, and all they told me was to walk around silently telling people that I love them.

A couple of days after the seminar, he was at the bank. Standing in line, he noticed that the bank teller was being quite harsh and abusive toward every customer she served. She was practically biting peoples heads off. As he watched this go on with one person after another, he suddenly realized, My gosh, Im next! As he waited in line, getting closer and closer, he thought he might as well try what the speaker had taught. Just as he was about to approach the tellers window, he looked at her and silently said to her in his mind, I love you.

As he stepped up to her window, she looked up and it was as if she was a different person. She was totally transformed. She looked at my friend, smiled her first smile, and as she asked, May I help you? he just stood there with a blank surprised look on his face. After he left the bank, he just flew through the rest of the day. He couldnt believe that the simple gesture of sending an unspoken thought could have such a major impact on his own self-esteem.

Upon hearing this story, Vivienne, a dear friend of mine, shared with me that shed be willing to experiment with this magic energy of silently saying I love you to family and friends, but not to total strangers. With them, she might require more discernment in order to be conscious of what she might project and attract. Vivienne recommends that if silently saying I love you is too challenging when you meet someone new, you might instead embrace the silent statement, You are important.

The moral of all of this is, you only get what you give in life. If youre feeling a lack of love in your life, go out and give love to other people. If youre feeling like people dont understand you, try to understand them first. If youre feeling a lack of support, give all your support to other people. And if you're feeling that people aren't nice, trying being nice to them first.

Winn Claybaugh is the author of Be Nice (Or Else!), with foreword by CNN's Larry King. Winn is the founder of Paul Mitchell The School, with several locations throughout the U.S. He is the National Motivational Expert for Paul Mitchell and has worked with thousands of businesses, including companies such as Vidal Sassoon, the Irvine Company, Entertainment Tonight, Mattel, For Rent magazine, Structure/Limited Express, and others. Winn has served as vice president of the AIDS Relief Fund for Beauty Professionals, and he continues to pursue many fundraising projects. Sign up for Winns free motivational monthly newsletter at For informative articles and resources visit

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