When somebody does us a good turn, we look to return the favour.
Once we return the favour, we are even. Until we do this, we are likely to feel like we are in their debt. However, paying it back can often feels like a transaction, thereby undermining the first person’s generosity. When we pay it back, the goodness involved is limited to two parties.
An alternative is to pay it forward. When we pay it forward, we can accept the first person’s gift with gratitude. We also set off a chain of goodness – we pay it forward, and the person we benefit also does the same thing. The goodness multiplies this way.
Paying it back is an obligation. Paying it forward is generous.