The School of Service
Do you know someone who absolutely delights in doing things for others? This is the person who plans the family parties, who babysits with a smile, who is the first in line to donate blood or chauffeur the soccer team to their next tournament game. They honestly want to help others achieve their goals and dreams, often providing free advice and resources to help make it happen. When they are asked to do something, their automatic response is ‘yes.’
I have several relatives like this, and they are wonderful people. That said, I worry sometimes about whether they are getting totally stressed out by taking such good care of everyone else. Are their own needs getting sidestepped in favor of everyone else’s?
On the flip side of the coin, do you know someone who demands that everyone else cater to them? There are folks who exude an air of entitlement, who take and take without appreciating (or even seeming to realize) the efforts others are making on their behalf. The dinner menu, the television remote, and division of the household chores are all under this person’s control.
These two kinds of behaviors embody the extremes of the School of Service. If you have four whorls in your ten fingerprints, this is your school.
The goal of students in the School of Service is to be conscious of the ways in which they want to serve. It is an ability and a willingness to discern and choose genuine, joyful service, without falling into servitude (which breeds resentment and burnout).
In navigating this school, people can fall into the two extremes described above, and suffer their negative effects. In the first instance, if you are constantly giving to everyone else, you may exhaust yourself, begin to feel resentful, and go from joyful, willing service to obligatory, victimizing service. You may also be making unconscious bargains with those you serve—“I’ll do this for you, but you need to come through for me in return.” (This isn’t service, by the way. It’s commerce.)
Any of these scenarios can result in a pendulum swing to the ‘other side’—swearing off being of service because you are tired of others taking advantage of you. You adopt the entitlement posture.
How about you? Do you fall into either of these camps? Whether or not you are in the School of Service, it’s helpful to notice your own service-related behaviors and attitudes!