When was the last time you thought to “be in service”? I’m not talking about the kind of service we do if our job is customer service but the concept of what it means to be in service to another person.
“Nothing truly valuable arises from ambition or from a mere sense of duty; it stems rather from love and devotion towards men [sic] and towards objective things.” ~ Albert Einstein
In truth, we are all in service to each other
We’re just doing it with varying degrees of intention and excellence. As part of one world, we are all connected to each other. With that common bond comes common responsibilities as a human race. Intentionally being in service is to sincerely feel consideration for something or someone greater than yourself.
The way in which we each choose to show our regard is reflective of our life purpose. How we choose to take action in the world is a large component of our fulfillment. We each have as much unique expression in our service as in everything else we do. It has the potential to reflect our talents, skills, personality — everything about us.
Service to others is how we begin to put action behind philosophy and theory of our largest view of life. If living in integrity has three steps — being consistent in thought, word, and action, then the action stage is the service component. After all, seeing and recognizing a need isn’t enough. We have to take action.
Yet to plan to be of service to others in order to enrich our own lives feels wrong to me. Or to be of service to others because it’s a spiritually fulfilling step — expecting we are earning sacred brownie points for good deeds is self-serving. Unless service is done without expectation, it isn’t a function of being of service.
It’s helping others. Helping others is still great, but it’s not the same as being of service. We don’t have to be Mother Teresa or the Dalai Lama, but giving when expecting something in return isn’t really giving — no matter what the present is.
It’s so easy to fall into this trap without even realizing it and it’s where we can find ourselves easily disappointed. For example, how great does it feel to appreciate someone else’s work? I know I feel fabulous when I take the time to tell someone I like their effort.
I also know I start to feel anxious and discouraged if I’ve harbored an expectation that they will do something for me in return. No matter how subtle or minor my expectation may be — even something like wanting them to return my email — sets me up to fail. And it turns my act of service into one of self-service.
To be of service at its finest is an act of noble humility
Many times nobody will ever know we’ve done anything. It is heart centered giving, consistent with our core values and life purpose.
And when we give in this way, we not only turn to something larger than ourselves, we become something greater than ourselves.
The detachment we need is from expectation. When giving without any anticipation of return, we can finally relax completely into the real gift of giving. That’s when we experience the expansion of experience. When we fall into a zone and realize we are just a tiny part of a world much larger than us. That realization, while humbling, is simultaneously freeing and opens us to greater happiness and ease.
Being of service can be addictive. We won’t be content to sit still when we know there is action to be taken once we’ve already stretched our internal comfort zone. We’ve reached our next point of understanding and growth. There’s no looking back, only forward. Like a runner’s heart muscle grows, so does a heart of service.
Once we get the parameters of this clear for ourselves, we can practice being of service in every arena of life — at home, at work, while doing errands, etc.
Before we can be of service to others, we have to be of service to ourself
How can we honor another soul before we honor our own? We can’t. When we honor our needs we are then guaranteed to have the surplus to give. Without respecting our requirements first, we have nothing to give.
It isn’t always free, either. You don’t get free food at a restaurant. But you should be able to expect the food you order will be served as it was promised. Wouldn’t it be particularly lovely if you were surprised and delighted by excellence? What if the cook and server not only delivered what they promised but clearly gave of their talents and joy while doing it? That is an example of how they could be of service.
Perhaps you’ve seen examples when someone contributed more than they had to give. It didn’t feel good for either side. For the giver, it can be painful or at the very least dramatic. For the recipient, it can feel like an uncomfortable debt. This applies to finances, emotions, physical energy, and spiritual generosity.
Clarity of intention
Perhaps the simplest way to detach is to check our intention when we’re feeling unsure or confused. The soul expanding sense of service is pure heart-centered giving, consistent with our core values and purpose. It is love in its purest form, directed towards whatever mission we choose to devote our talents and energy. And it makes us greater than who we were before.
Maybe all we need to do at the end of each day is ask ourself “how did I make myself a better person today?” The answer will most likely include being of service.