Benjamin Franklin quote pay it forward serve others to let good offices go round

Pay goodness forward to everyone

Franklin’s wisdom for US: Do good to others for the goodness you have received.

The expression pay it forward means “respond to a person’s kindness to oneself by being kind to someone else.” Franklin lived his life as a way of paying it forward through his many acts of kindness to others, both in small ways and large.

Franklin helped a gentleman (thought to be a minister) recover from an illness, and this was Franklin’s response to the thanks he received from the gentleman. Franklin asked him to pay it forward.

Franklin followed his request with these additional wise words.

For my own part, when I am employed in serving others, I do not look upon my self as conferring favors, but as paying debts. In my travels and since my settlement I have received much kindness from men, to whom I shall never have any opportunity of making the least direct return. And numberless mercies from God, who is infinitely above being benefited by our services. These kindnesses from men I can therefore only return on their fellowmen; and I can only show my gratitude for those mercies from God, by a readiness to help his other children and my brethren. For I do not think that thanks, and compliments, though repeated weekly, can discharge our real obligations to each other, and much less those to our Creator.

Twenty-eight years later, Franklin wrote a similar sentiment to a prisoner (a priest captured by the French privateer), providing him with some financial assistance. Rather than requesting repayment of the debt, Franklin added:

Sometime or other you may have an opportunity of assisting with an equal sum a stranger who has equal need of it. Do so. By that means you will discharge any obligation you may suppose yourself under to me. Enjoin him to do the same on occasion. By pursuing such a practice, much good may be done with little money.— Let kind offices go round. Mankind are all of a family.

September 5, 1781

Franklin’s call to action for US: Do goodness to others, always.

Quote on image:

“The only thanks I should desire is, that you would always be equally ready to serve any other person that may need your assistance, and so let good offices go round, for mankind are all of a family.”