Music and The Spoken Word -Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Goodness Is Its Own Reward – June 28, 2009
We live in a world where awards seem to be freely given and freely received. In fact, sometimes the award becomes such a strong incentive for good work and behavior that it overshadows the more subtle rewards that might be enjoyed along the way.
Especially with today’s youth, awards are often larger-than-life motivations. Children work busily to complete their household chores with the hopes that it will earn them a special treat from their parents. Meanwhile the satisfaction of a clean home goes unnoticed. Teenagers bring home a stellar report card but can’t recall what they learned about at school that day. In their pursuit of good grades, they’ve somehow missed the thrill of gaining and applying knowledge.
Perhaps we unintentionally reinforce this attitude by expressing love or approval with expensive gifts, when little children are often quite pleased with the packaging—or even just the visit. We may deprive our young people of the most enduring rewards if we fail to teach them that goodness is its own reward. We feel good when we are doing good.
Indeed, the means can be just as fulfilling as the end if our motivations for achieving personal goals are not just the awards that dangle in front of us. We make more lasting progress and feel more contented when we learn to enjoy not only the reward but also the path that leads to it. Some young people long to graduate or secure a high-paying job, only to find that their “dream” is not as gratifying as they thought it would be. “What comes next?” or “Is this all there is?” may be their unspoken feeling.
If, however, we pay attention to the more understated moments of success along the way—the times we completed a difficult task, the mornings we arose early to exercise or study, the people we’ve helped—we begin to understand that the true reward is what we’ve become, not what we’ve earned. The Proverbs teach, “To him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward” (Proverbs 11:18). Intuitively children seem to know that. They just need to be reminded that while a prize is pleasing, a sense of doing right is the truest joy.