Remembering the Why: Memory and Motivation

When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this.
— Deuteronomy 24:20-22

When I was a teenager, my hunting buddy and I would always return to our favorite place, a creek bed surrounded on either side by overgrown brush and orange orchards. When the hunting got slow or we grew tired, we'd crawl up under an orange tree and gorge ourselves, thankful that the harvesters had left a few ripe ones on the trees for us. If I were a farmer now, I would like to leave some fruit on my trees for a couple of tired boys. I'd like to pay it forward.

One of the greatest assets to increased motivation is remembering. The practice of paying it forward is grounded in memory.

The simplest way to define "pay it forward" is that when someone does something for you, instead of paying that person back directly, you pass it on to another person instead. In the Israelite's case, God had given them a harvest and they were to pass the blessing on to the foreigners in their midst. This concept is rooted in the scriptural command to love our neighbor.

God was encouraging His people to remember His kindnesses to them and to pass that kindness along to others. Why? Because they had been captives themselves, foreigners in a strange land. In this context the why was extremely important. Their motivation for paying it forward was rooted in memory. The same principle applies to us today.

There are two ways our memories can serve us, and both of them create opportunity to give back to others:

  • I was helped in some way by this person or cause, and I choose to pay it forward.
  • I was NOT shown kindness or helped in that situation, therefore I will be the first one to show kindness to someone else.

In the first case, we continue the cycle of paying it forward; in the second, which is always harder to do, we create potential for the cycle to start and gain momentum.

Gratitude comes into play here. Through grateful people much good can be done in our world. 

Grateful people give because they know what it's like to be in need.
Grateful people give because they want to say “thank you” in some tangible way. 
Grateful people give because they know what it feels like to receive the timely help of another.

Loss of attentiveness plays into loss of memory. They are blood brothers, we simply don’t remember what we never stopped to notice.
— Mark Buchanan, Rest of God

Faith is rooted in memory, and we are stewards of them both. When we take the time to remember well, we lay the groundwork for increased motivation and giving back to our neighbors and communities. Harvest your grapes, and leave some for others. Why? Because you were_____________(You fill in the blank).

On a different note, a quick update on our transition as a family from Turkey back to the good ol’ USA. We were celebrating my youngest daughter's birthday following one month of living stateside. As we were sitting around the table her mom and I asked her what she hoped for in her 14th year.  “I want to thrive as a family and to be a light at school”, she said. Needless to say, she has two proud parents.

Thriving and shining. Transitions, long and difficult ones, tend to wreak havoc with both of these godly desires. How can we measure progress when chaos seems to rule? How can we feel purposeful when the rug is getting pulled out from underneath our feet, either slowly or all at once? Can we really thrive and shine on the other side of transition?

I agree completely with my daughter’s wise wishes. The dust of transition will settle. And when it's all said and done I want to to thrive and shine in this new season.

Transition and the ability to thrive….sounds like a good topic for my next post. 

Meanwhile, on the heels of transition I’ll join my daughter in her pursuit. Here's to thriving and shining, whatever season you're in!

Tim, Encompass Life Coaching

Want to get some coaching around your personal or professional growth? Know someone who does? Only a few days left to take advantage of the 15% coaching package discount at