To serve and volunteer of your time is no small thing. Whether that is 1 hour, 20 hours or a full-time role. Serving something and someone beyond yourself can bring lasting benefits to the way you live your life.

If I’m honest, my natural default setting is to be selfish. I think if you are honest, you will probably find that it is true for you too. It’s somewhat natural to think about our own needs first. As I write this, we are well past the initial lockdown restriction imposed because of COVID-19. What we saw in the first few weeks was the shelves being utterly emptied. The elderly and key workers on late shifts not being able to get essential foods and even food bank baskets being raided on one or two occasions.
It’s in the difficult times that we really see what we are made of.
That said, there were lots of positive moments where the U.K. nation rallied to restock food banks. Also, measures were taken to protect the vulnerable and an army of people who risked their own wellbeing to help others.
Hold those two extremes in your mind. Which one do you feel more proud of? Was it the selfish raiding, or the rallying to help others? There are few things more satisfying than seeing the masses come together and be self-sacrificing. That is service. It’s not just volunteering, but also the type of work we engage in. There are many ways to contribute back to the communities we live in, and to the nation, we reside in. That feeling of pride and respect for those around us who are altruistic, or preferring others over themselves is the reward of serving.
It makes you feel good!
It feels right!
It causes everyone to rise to something better.
With all of the above in mind, here are my top 8 reasons to serve.

 

1) It’s The Most Respected Thing You Can Easily Do

Serving others is highly respectable, and it is easy for almost anyone to do in some way.
Jesus Christ, the central figure of the Christian faith and arguably the most notable man in humanity’s history, demonstrated the power of serving others. His life was built on serving the people around Him. In fact, He is even quoted as saying ‘I came to serve and not be served’.
On one occasion He is away having an evening meal with 12 of His closest friends and the custom was that a paid worker would come and wash your feet. You’d be travelling down dirt ridden roads in leather sandals, so your feet were pretty filthy. It was a dirty job and not well respected. On this occasion, the guy that did this job was nowhere to be seen. Seeing an opportunity to teach His friends about service, Jesus gets to His feet, takes His coat off and wraps the servant’s towel around His waist.
The room goes silent.
Jesus then takes a bowl of water and a towel – bends down and starts to wash His friend’s feet.
They freak out because the most respected and honoured man in their day and age has lowered himself to such a disgusting and disrespected job. At that moment, Jesus teaches them that the most significant thing you can do to be great is to serve others.
He says to them ‘I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you’.
We often think that the goal of life is to gain respect and prestige. I know people that will refuse to do things that they see are beneath them. It might even seem reasonable that people of prominence or importance ought not to do something that is menial and is regarded as lowly.
However, it takes great courage and security to take on a role that is not well respected. You have to be supremely secure in yourself and undisturbed by people’s opinion to do something that seems beneath you. For people that make the leap, I have a lot of respect. A powerful and more recent historical example of where this is proven is in the life of Princess Dianna. Dubbed the people’s princess because of the way she used her influence to serve others.

2) It’s Healing

Serving allows you to separate your emotions long enough to take some steps towards healing.
During my younger years, I had siblings that had troubles of their own. It made my home life tense, to say the least. At eight years old most kids are not all that self-aware, I was no exception. The rocky teen years of my older relatives had an effect on me, I just didn’t realise it at the time. When I was in my early teens, there were several moments where I wanted to escape my day-to-day. Things were calm enough at home, but those times in my younger years were buried deep inside of me and had left their emotional marks. It would take me many years to unmask and face them, and in some ways, I’m still doing so.
Serving is one thing that has helped me reflect and face up to those emotional scars. When you serve someone else, it requires a loosened grip on selfishness. As we serve someone else, we no longer think of ourselves, and this can do extensive healing work. Suddenly my mind is not preoccupied with me, but someone else. That thing I was obsessed about losses its hold.
Somehow it allows you to separate how you feel about yourself from how others feel about you. We haven’t got the space here to go into how our experiences as a child form who we are, but you probably know that to be true already. Those same experiences can powerfully shape who you perceive yourself to be. Which is not always the same as how others view you. When you serve others, you will probably find that through speaking with people and giving of yourself that your perspective starts to change. It’s a strange feeling, but this inner separation takes place, and you’re able to see yourself as someone to be helped. If and when that happens, you can’t start to sift out some of the pain and hurt you’ve experienced over the years.
No longer do you have to be held by it, but can use it as fuel to help others.

3) It’s The Hallmark of Humility

Humility is one of the most desirable characteristics a person can obtain, and it is obtainable. Character is built, and humility is a huge part of good character.
Pride is probably the most opposite characteristic of humility. Pride is when you believe that you are above certain behaviours or jobs. There is such a thing as a healthy or positive pride, but most negatively; pride can stop you from becoming a person that does good. It’s good to take pride in your achievements in life. It’s good to be proud of the people you care about. It’s good to be proud of things that help people. It is not good to be too proud to admit mistakes. Or help somebody out. Or even apologise. Negative pride is what stops us being the bigger person.
Pride is what makes us think we are too good to do ‘that’, whatever ‘that’ is for you. You can’t serve if you feel you’re too good to do so. Serving forces us into a place where we cannot look down our nose at someone.  It takes security and determination to serve in a way that is ‘less befitting’ to your social image.
Having worked in some pretty hands-on, low paying, tough jobs, I can tell you that humility carries weight. When somebody of perceived importance rolls up their sleeves and gets their hands dirty, heads turn and nod in approval. There is, of course, a time and a place for getting stuck in when you wouldn’t usually. But the principle is to keep demonstrating humility. When you do things that require humility, whether you feel humble or not, you gain the characteristic of humility.
People are rarely set to humble as a default. It’s taught, learned, developed and experienced. When you serve others, you have to give your time. When you give your time, you also get rid of negative pride.

4) It’s Necessary To Thrive

Society and communities thrive when we contribute to making it better, willingly.
Selfishness dictates that we only worry about number 1 – us. But serving is a necessary part of communities working together for the greater good. You’re free not to, but when you withhold your contribution to society, there is a tiny incalculable sum of neglect that harms everyone. Think of it as a domino effect across society. It might be small, but when we are all selfish, we all contribute to this neglect that compounds over time. We are worse off when we withhold from serving.
There was a time where it always almost an unspoken rule that you helped your neighbour and anyone you saw struggling. There are many communities around the world where this is still the case. The more wealthy a nation seems to be, the more serving others seem to be disregarded. We all need support structures to thrive. When you have wealth, you can buy it. When you have little wealth, you need the kindness of strangers. The cultural contrast can be seen in history between the mindset of pioneering communities such as in the frontier of Western European settlers in the 17th century to stoic and isolated western communities today. Even the felt cultural difference between my grandma’s approach to her neighbours having lived through world war 2, to our current day and the way we interact.
When I first moved into our neighbourhood (a transient and city-based street), I knocked on my neighbour’s door to say hello. He has been living here for 20 years, and nobody had ever done that. We now have 6-7 people who stop in the street and chat. Serving can break down barriers, opens up communities and causes us all to thrive. Everybody wins when we give of our time.

5) It’s An Action of Love

To donate time and effort communicates love.  Love is punctuated by action – it does something…always.
The profound philosophy and inner workings of love as an emotion and a duty are for another post. I will take it for granted that you and I agree about love being something we demonstrate. It is, of course, many other things, but love has to be shown through action.
When we spend time with someone, go out of our way for someone or do anything that might cost us personally for another – we demonstrate love. Serving and volunteering to help others is a form of love. It might not be the intimate type or the head over heels type. But, it is the compassionate type. You may or may not do it because of a feeling, but knowing that it is good and moral is an expression of love.
When you celebrate with a loved one, you will often do something to show an appreciation for them. It might be buying a gift that is just right for them. It might be taking them out for a day of thing they enjoy. It often involves some level of action to communicate to them that they matter. This can be the same expression of love in your volunteering. It offers a chance to show care and compassion to your fellow human being.

6) It’s Freeing

To serve gives you a sense of freedom. You’re not obligated to do it, you choose to do it. It also teaches you social interaction.
Awkwardness and a lack of social connection can restrict us. When you were a toddler, your parents probably made sure you were around other children so that you were socialised. It’s a part of a babies development cycle, to learn how to interact with other human beings.
As we grow, we need continual social development, and this includes adulthood. The U.S., U.K. and Japan are polled as being some of the loneliest nations in the world. Meaning that more people feel isolated and disconnected from their communities than anywhere else in the world. When we turn our homes into little castles and opt for a few social interactions in our day to day lives, we build a fortress of loneliness.
In your adult life, you need to continually develop social skills. Whatever your circumstance; whether you have a great social experience or you are struggling to meet people. Serving your community can expose you to all types of people. It will teach you excellent negotiation skills, humility and an appreciation for everything in your life. For anyone who has volunteered, you know how truly life enlarging it can be.

7) It’s Counter-Cultural

It’s not uncommon for people to volunteer, but it is unusual for them to think of it as serving.
There is a subtle distinction. When it comes to volunteering, people generally think ‘oh, I’m doing my little bit’. When you think of giving back to the community as service and duty, it becomes more about the greater whole, morality and that characteristic of servitude.
The notion that my life is not my own.
It’s not all about me fulfilling my desires.
I owe something to the people around me.
You may disagree with that idea, but in truth, you owe more than you think to the people around you—even strangers.
There is an economy of cooperation in our towns and cities. We have to co-operate socially, with the law and with some sense of progression (however that might look). Nobody is forcing you to engage.
When you see your life as a note in a symphony of humanity (let me get all poetic on you), you realise that a culture of selfishness is the most unhelpful thing. By serving, we are counter-cultural, and we are free from selfish thinking that often dominates peoples lives.
Switch your thoughts from ‘I need to get ahead and always come out on top’, to ‘how can I make things better in the world around me’. You will be a lot happier!

8) It Eats Selfishness for Breakfast

Finally, it beats living your life for you and you alone. One thing that will make you lonely is selfish thinking.
     It might seem cliche and a little cheesy, but selflessness makes your world grow more significant. There is a tremendous ancient Biblical proverb that says ‘the world of the genres gets larger and larger, the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller’. I firmly believe that selfishness is a choice. It’s uncomfortable to think about others. If you are not used to it, you will find yourself being made uncomfortable. But nobody grows in the place of comfort.
We are all stronger when we have people who are covering our backs, looking out for us and taking a genuine interest in our well being. It starts with each of us playing the role of caring for the person next to us.
The golden rule, established by Jesus is to love others as you love yourself. Now, assuming you don’t hate yourself, that means we owe it to each other to make sure we have what we need. When we do that, everybody wins!
Nobody likes the attitude of the selfish. It makes us cringe on the inside. You can’t quickly dislike somebody who is willing to give of their time and serve you. The attitude of the servant dominates over the disposition of selfishness.

APPLICATION

This week, find a way to give yourself to a worthy cause with no string attached. The goal is to simply help somebody that needs help. There is no shortage of opportunities!


Image Credits: joel-muniz on Unsplash.com
Discussion Rules: I’m not into thought policing at all, but I am big on honour and respect. Opinionated is fine, but if you’re ill-mannered or nasty, expect to see your comments disappear. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (All credit to Tim Ferris’ site who I totally took this idea from).
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Julian Joseph

Author Julian Joseph

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