Monday, October 8, 2012

When You Don't Get Back What You Put In

I do a mental eye roll whenever I hear someone say, "You get back what you put in." It's a presumptuous comment to make about anything, even if it's spoken in the spirit of encouraging someone to do their best so they can reap the rewards of their hard work.

Here's why I don't like this misleading adage:

1. By the logic of "you get back what you put in," when someone doesn't get the end result they were aiming for, must that mean they didn't utilize enough of themselves into reaching their goal? Of course not.  So this saying sets someone up to feel like they didn't try hard enough when in reality, they might've done all that they could. 

2. What if someone worked and worked and worked towards a goal, and the prize they feel is due to them is forever out of their reach? The "you get back what you put in" finger wagging in your face can leave someone feeling like they have been cheated, as if the universe now owed them something big.

3. It can tear someone up inside when they observe another person getting what they themselves had labored and sweated away for, and the cut goes even deeper when the "chosen one" appears to have been less deserving of the prize.

Self-doubt, entitlement, and bitterness are undesirable pieces of baggage for anyone to lug around. 

Here's how I would put it:  Sometimes you get back what you put in, and sometimes you don't. You don't always have full control over the results of your efforts. 

What do you think of "You get back what you put in?" Have you ever NOT gotten back what you put in? How did you react to that disappointment?

18 comments:

Kyra Lennon said...

I never really thought about the phrase so deeply before, but I think in some cases, you're right. You don't always get back what you put in, and I feel it can quite often apply strongly where relationships/friendships are involved. There are many people in the world who will take everything from you, and give nothing back. :(

Teresa Coltrin@Journaling Woman said...

Very VERY true, you don't always get back what you put in. There are so many examples I could give: relationships, the wealthy, owning a pet (pets give more than we do).

Great post.

T

Tara Tyler said...

how bout life isnt fair? some reap rewards w/o much effort and some work their butts off to no avail...i say, do your best and that is your reward. we dont always get what we want so we should be happy with what we can achieve. you can ignore my ramblings, i could go on all day =)

happy monday!

Laura Marcella said...

People expect too much! Perhaps you donate a lot of money to a charity you support annually and actively participate in the charity. Will you get that money back? Maybe you will...in ten years after a huge promotion. Or maybe the return from your kindness is someone doing a really nice thing for you, like making you dinner for a week if you're going through something sad. I do think what goes around comes around! It's just not always exactly what we put in, and it's not immediately.

Sherry Ellis said...

I like your thinking! Yes, sometimes you do get back what you put in. Sometimes you don't. I just always give my best, and then I leave it to fate to see what happens.

Lionel said...

Very good post! Often times I don't get back what you put into it, whether it is a project at work of home, it is not uncommon. I like your outlook and appreciate you sharing it.

Paul R. Hewlett

Cynthia said...

Kyra: Unfortunately, there are people out there who are purely takers and not givers.

Teresa: Good point! Sometimes I hear stories about very loyal pets.

Tara: I do believe there is a reward that comes with giving it your best.

Laura: I do like the notion of karma that you mentioned.

Sherry: Leaving some stuff to fate also takes the pressure off of us too, doesn't it?

Paul: I believe what you described isn't uncommon among many people.

Nicole said...

I think it's possible to "get what you give" in terms of inner character building and self-satisfaction. But you're right, it's very hard to say the same thing in terms of a specific set of expectations.

Lynda R Young said...

I'd not actually thought about this saying much, but I love your take on it. I'd add that even though Sometimes you get back what you put in, and sometimes you don't, you should put everything into it anyway.

Emily R. King said...

Interesting thoughts. I think we often assume we can choose our reward for the hard work we put in, but I find that most often the reward is greater than I thought. Blessings for hard work come in all sizes and shapes. The trick is recognizing them. :)

Lynn Proctor said...

i don't understand how too much works these days--for me it's just a matter of faith, which i can only receive----you ask some great questions!

Cynthia said...

Nicole: Positive character building is indeed a result that can come with hard work.

Lynda: In spite of there being no guarantee what you get back, I agree it shouldn't stop someone from trying their best.

Emily: That's a really optimistic outlook- sometimes the reward could be what we hadn't expected it to be.

Lynn: Having faith is important.

Sher A. Hart said...

I should be commenting on your IWSG post, but this is more interesting since it addresses my IWSG post from last month. Especially when it comes to people, you don't always get back what you put in. But sometimes, you get more. Those are the memories to cherish and let the others fade.

Tara Tyler said...

ps, i awarded you!

Theresa Milstein said...

I have often not gotten what I've put in. I've worked hard on tests, but had friends who got the material better than me and studied less. That's just a part of life. Sometimes there have been jobs I wanted and worked hard to get, but they employers had someone else in mind. We can work hard to write the best story, but what's good or needed on someone's list is subjective. I think we can just know that if we work hard, it's more likely there's a payoff. If I didn't work hard to study for that test, I wouldn't do well no matter what time and effort other people put into it.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Yeah, I've definitely not gotten back what I put in. I can see where that adage can be true, and how people may consider it reassuring in some way, but it's insulting when you've put your all into something and nepotism or something like that derails what you're working for.

On the other hand, sometimes one does get back what they put into it. It's a toss up. ;-p

Shannon at The Warrior Muse

Cynthia said...

Sher: Yes, sometimes you do get more, and it's pretty awesome when that happens.

Tara: Thanks!

Theresa: All we can do is just try our best.

Shannon: I suppose the times when we do get back what we put in can overshadow the times when we don't.

Maria said...

I don't think we always do get back what we put into any project, however, even if its not noticeable at the time, or a few weeks later, sometimes it'll happen a few years down the line.

This may sound awful, but after spending a lifetime as a 'giver' I now do think a little before committing myself to a major project. I keep this thought in mind...'what value will this bring to my writing' Then I make a decision based on the answers.

Having faith also helps...

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