On the subject of service to others

A good friend of mine sometimes posts biblical quotes to discuss motivation and morality. I find these fascinating because of the universality of the problem.

One time she didn’t quote the bible, she simply wrote something about the importance of not just service to others, but of selfless service.

Her post brought up the question of selfish service vs. selfless service.

I am a big fan of enlightened self interest. I do think doing good for others helps ourselves. But I also think there is value in acts of selfless service.

Selfless service is rare and always has been. Jesus’ story stands out because of his example of selfless service. Uncle Tom is a similar character. He’s not thinking of himself. He’s just giving himself over to the experience and helping without expectation of helping himself.

We are moved by these stories, but … almost no one actually lives up to the ideal. The most most of us can accomplish is selfish service. We do it to make ourselves feel better or to notch up points on our internal scoreboard.

So – is selfish service ok? 

There is nothing wrong with getting something out of service, but … you shouldn’t do harm while engaging in service either

The Humanist Service Corps wrote article about the principles they employ when engaging in service for just this reason. They don’t want to accidentally cause harm while trying to do good. https://appliedsentience.com/2016/01/22/secular-is-insufficient-how-hsc-differs-from-the-peace-corps/

Sometimes I think that maybe selfish service is part of the learning to be of service. Maybe people need to start with selfish service in order to learn selfless service?  I know that has been part of my journey. I’m curious about your own relationship with the concept of service to others and how you balance your selfish needs against the need to serve selflessly.

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