"Nothing liberates our greatness like the desire to help, the desire to serve."
- Marianne Williamson
Jealousy and Greed Greed
What is Selfless Service?
To serve selflessly is to serve without expectation of reward, Selfless service is a practice that is encouraged and honored by many different cultures and faith traditions. Selfless acts of kindness, charity or compassion are a gift to the world and an essential part of every successful family, community or culture. A frequently invoked metaphor to describe selfless service comes from sports where the willingness to “sacrifice for the team” is considered a great virtue.
How do I practice reverence? What is the experience of reverence?
Offering a helping hand to a stranger, making an anonymous donation to a worthy cause or comforting a grieving friend can all be expressions of selfless service. Some approach selfless service as a form of worship or as an offering to God, goodness or humanity in general. Others are simply answering their own heart’s call to be a positive force for good in a world that needs to be nurtured and healed.
Methods, Exercises, Inquiries
A good starting place for the practice of selfless service is to simply ask yourself where you encounter suffering within your own family and community. The old adage, “charity begins at home” need not imply selfishness; it reminds us that we can often have the greatest positive impact within our own circles of influence. A small kindness towards a parent, child or neighbor is no small thing. Despite this bit of “home-spun” wisdom, extending an act of selfless service to a complete stranger is recognized by many traditions as one of the supreme noble acts.
Challenges and Commitments of practice
Serving others can often mean putting ourselves into uncomfortable positions. For example, volunteering at a homeless shelter and interacting with individuals suffering from mental disabilities or addictions can be a very challenging. While some find that they are gifted when it comes to this sort of engagement, there are many opportunities for service that do not require face-to-face encounters with those being served. Try to match your talents and strengths with the kinds of service you are offering.
As is the case with any practice, taking a balanced approach to selfless service makes sense. There is often a fine line between self-sacrifice and selfless service and it is possible to over extend yourself. It is important to recognize that being of service to others often implies building a relationship with them. Are you ready for an extended commitment? If not, what can you offer them in the present moment?