When it comes to giving back, there is something beautiful and powerful about the concept of "paying it forward." It has the power to remind us that we are all inextricably connected and displays to others that they deserve respect, care, and love. And consequently, when we serve others, we serve ourselves.
However, the intention behind why we serve is just as important (if not more so) as the act itself. For example, are we serving to feel good about ourselves, out of obligation, to genuinely help others, or a combination of the above?
If we serve primarily to feel good about ourselves or to be seen as virtuous, we're missing the point and potentially doing more harm than good. In these moments, our ego is driving our behavior, and we're not serving from a place of genuine intent and selfless service.
When doing ‘good deeds,’ it's important to approach service without pride or feelings of self-importance. Unfortunately, virtue signaling has become a popular trend, where people often perform acts of charity or create social media posts about their activism to make themselves look good. In that sense, the behavior is not virtuous because it's driven by the ego and can even have negative consequences.
The highest service we can offer is removing self-importance from our lives.
The above statement is something we may all nod in agreement to, yet few of us will accept and act on it ourselves. Especially those of us who live in a society that bolsters the ego and supports placing the self above all else. Unfortunately, healthy selfishness has been taken out of context to appease our ego and convey a message of “Me. Me. Me” However, focusing on ourselves first, from a selfless standpoint, is about accepting ourselves and our past, facing our challenges head-on with love, curiosity, and understanding, and taking personal responsibility for ourselves and how we choose to interact with life. It’s at that point of transformation and acceptance that we can give our best selves to others and serve with a whole heart and not a broken one.
How we can serve:
When it comes to serving others, it's not just about the task or action itself—it's about creating human connections and fostering mutual respect and understanding.
There are numerous ways to serve. Indirectly, you might connect deeply to the present moment and your heart and generate a feeling of compassion and love for all of humanity; you might choose to do your work with pure intention, knowing that others will be impacted in some form, or you could donate food or goods to a charitable organization. Directly, serving others might be as simple as smiling at a stranger with a genuine interest in their well-being or allowing a car to merge in front of you. Other, more traditional forms of service could be committing to volunteer opportunities and community outreach. And for others, being of service becomes their entire life, like Mother Teresa.
No matter how you serve, a little can go a long way in strengthening cultural ties and developing a deeper appreciation for the world around you.
A nugget on the law reciprocity:
Reciprocity is an important component of service that we may not always consider. When we help others, we often receive help in return. However, if we serve superficially, we may receive superficial help in return. If we approach service with true selflessness and the intention to make a positive impact, we're more likely to obtain mutual support that comes from a place of genuine care and concern.
It's important to examine our motives and ensure we serve others for the right reasons. When we approach service from a selfless and loving place, we open ourselves up to the gift of reciprocity and create a ripple effect of positive change.