Heaven’s Reward Fallacy Cognitive Distortion 15

In Heaven’s Reward Fallacy, we expect our sacrifice and self-denial to pay off as if someone is keeping score. We feel bitter when the reward doesn’t come.


Here’s a story to illustrate Heaven’s Reward Fallacy.

Rose was a solid member of her local church. In fact, Rose was one of the founding members. She baked cakes for funerals, cleaned pews on special work days, and could be counted on for odd jobs any day. Rose believed in her God and didn’t see works as part of her faith, but that didn’t stop her from working for some rewards here on earth.

Rose thought everyone should see the world as she did, one big service project and never enough time to get it all done. Unfortunately, with modern times, most women had jobs outside the home and were committed with many different activities. People just weren’t committed to their civic duty as in years gone by. Rose expected a reward for all her hard work, but no reward ever came. The harder she worked, the more she was taken for granted.

Eventually Rose realized she was volunteering for all the wrong reasons. Her heart was in her reward, not in the tasks. She thought she could make up for some deficit in herself by working so hard. Something deep down inside Rose felt lacking and she was trying to fill that hole. When Rose realized why she was motivated to work as she did, she realized she needed to change her attitude. She believed in service work to help her fellow man, not make herself the savior.

Job by job, Rose discovered her true passions and focused on them instead of spreading herself so thin on every available task. Now Rose had time to enjoy her service and her reward was in the actual service, not the praise.


Victor Frankl tells us in Man’s Search for Meaning that we need meaningful work to keep us engaged with the world around us.

We need a sense of duty and belonging to give our life meaning. Service for the sake of serving, because you find joy in the task is much more powerful than serving for the sake of an external reward. Most people won’t appreciate you as much as you should be appreciated.

Learning to live in that space of service without a heaven’s reward fallacy will cultivate joy and stop resentment.


On Wings Like Angels
On Wings Like Angels

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