There is no dispensation from the Law of Compensation

What do I mean by saying there is no dispensation from the Law of Compensation? I first need to explain the meaning of COMPENSATION. I’m not using it to mean ‘salary’ or ‘benefit package,’ but to mean ‘what constitutes, or is regarded as, an equivalent; what makes good the lack or variation of something else; what COMPENSATES for loss or privation; amends or recompense.

This is how the English Metaphysical poet Francis Quarles (1592 ~ 1644) describes compensation: “As there is no worldly gain without some loss, so there is no worldly loss without some gain. If thou hast lost thy wealth, thou hast lost some trouble with it. If thou art degraded from thy honor, thou art likewise freed from the stroke of envy. If sickness hast blurred thy beauty, it hath delivered thee from pride. Set the allowance against the loss and thou shalt find no loss great.”

In modern terms, we could say one man is rich but bored and another is poor, yet happy. One woman achieves great success but dies young; another is less successful but lives longer. Or, a rich man can afford steak and lobster but finds it hard to digest while a poor man has a hearty appetite and good health. Or, someone else may have a large salary, but little time to spend with their family.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 ~ 1882) explains compensation in clear terms: “For everything you have missed, you have gained something else; and for everything you gain, you lose something else.” Again, in his journal dated January 8, 1826, he writes, “The whole of what we know is a system of compensations. Every defect in one manner is made up in another. Every suffering is rewarded; every sacrifice is made up; every debt is paid.”

The title of this article, then, means there is no exemption, no exception, or no escape from this law of life. We cannot have successes without failures or hardships without gains. For every gain, there is a loss. We lose the wood to gain fire and heat. We lose the heat to cook the food. We lose the food to nourish our body, and so it goes. This law of nature is about balance, harmony, and equilibrium. It is similar to the Law of Conservation of Energy in science. (Energy may neither be created nor destroyed and the sum of all energy remains constant.)

Another aspect of the Law of Compensation is we will reap what we sow. Isn’t it true that if I plant tomatoes, I’ll reap tomatoes, and if I plant weeds, I’ll reap weeds? So, it should come as no surprise that if I plant seeds of love, I will be loved, and if I plant acts of kindness, others will treat me kindly. But if all I sow is anger, all I reap will be hostility. When we practice the Golden Rule by treating our neighbors as we wish to be treated, we live in harmony with this principle and will reap its benefits. Or, as Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “It is one of the most beautiful compensations in life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”

Another term to describe reaping what we sow is ‘karma.’ In Sanskrit, karma means action or deed. In the spiritual sense, it means both our actions and the consequences that flow from them. Those who believe in karma believe that their fate is governed by the choices they make. The happiness they experience or the suffering they undergo is a result of how they use their free will. So, it’s just another way to describe how we reap what we sow.

Yet another term used to describe the same thing is The Law of Action and Reaction. That is, for every force, there is a counter force. The greater we stretch a rubber band, the greater its snapback. The more I scowl at you, the angrier you will become; the more you smile at me, the more pleased I will become. We could also express this idea by calling it the Law of Cause and Effect, or just by saying that virtue is its own reward and wrongdoing causes suffering.

The Law of Compensation, or sowing what we reap, is not about God punishing the wicked and rewarding the holy, but simply His law of natural consequences. If we fall into a fire, we are burned not because we’re evil, but because of the heat of the flames. So, it is wise to become familiar with the laws of nature to avoid unnecessary pain and unhappiness.

Once we understand for every gain there is a loss, we can free ourselves from envy and live contentedly. Blessed are the contented, for they are never poor. Woe unto the discontented, for they are never rich. Blessed is she who has little and wants less, for she is richer than he who has much and wants more. Blessed, too, is he who realizes that a little is a great deal when it is enough. And, as Socrates (469 ~ 399 BC) taught, “He is the richest who is content with the least.”

There is a time for contentment and a time for discontentment. When we use discontent to raise ourselves to a higher level, we are living in line with the Law of Compensation. For at such a time, we realize that there is no gain without loss, or no gain without pain. We understand that our success depends not on what we take up, but what we give up. So, we willingly sacrifice time and comfort to reach our goal. And if we experience a temporary setback, we’re not discouraged because we understand that hidden in our problems are blessings waiting to be discovered. In the same way, when we are pounded by adversity, we find solace in the Law of Compensation, looking forward to the benefits that await us.

Also, we don’t make the mistake of comparing our lives with those of others. For although their gains are clearly visible, their loses are hidden from view. Neither do we allow our imagination to exaggerate the extent of our losses or others’ gains. We also keep our balance by remembering that all is relative. After all, bad is never good, until worse happens.