I had something I wanted to write about today but all of it went out the window when I saw someone wearing a t-shirt with three words that almost made my blood boil.
These three words are true in their own right. And yet, in a specific context, the phrase makes me fume.
The three words?
Service over self.
When my eyes ran over those words for a split second, I immediately was taken back to my past.
But before that – here’s a disclaimer. I’m a very dramatic person. Everything you read here, cut down the emotion in half about three times, and then take it with a grain of salt. Or three. Disclaimer done.
I grew up in a family whose culture valued women for their sacrifice and service to their family. Every mother I knew was dedicated to their children’s schedule of tutoring, sports practice, extracurricular activities. She was the cook, maid, chauffeur, caretaker, and nurse. Many mothers defined themselves by the universities their children were accepted into, their offsprings’ career and salary. Not all of them, but most that I knew.
I also grew up in a religious organization that valued doing over being many times. There were definitely sermons and themes of self-compassion and of the importance of being still, but the underlying message was many times service over self. I have friends that were burned out by their service and continued to serve wearing their tiredness as a badge of honor or left the organization altogether, weary and depleted.
So when I saw the phrase on that t-shirt of the innocent human being, my temper flared within. I know that I was reacting out of my own emotions and subjective past (well, all past is subjective haha). And I know that it holds true in its own way.
I just don’t agree with the way I’d been taught and raised around that concept.
Because today, I believe there is no service without self. There is no service without the self that finds the conviction, energy, resources, and purpose behind the service. For me, I believe that service performed for any other sake but true – True purpose, an emotional connection and personal conviction is empty. Perhaps good things can come out of it. But for me, it’s dead.
Sacrifice is meaningless without the true understanding and valuation of what is being sacrificed. Did my mom know how valuable, how beautiful, how amazing, perfect, and worthy she was when she labored daily to care for my family, create a home for us? Did I know, back when I was serving in church, the true value I held as a creative and powerful being? Or did I attend all the meetings, retreats, services, and events, and expend my energy, mind, and heart simply because there was a need for people to fill the numbers?
Because if I had known, if I had been recognized for who I am, what I’m capable of by the leaders and especially by myself, I would have jumped in deeper. There’s no doubt about it. There would have been no cap to what I would pour into my ministry, into my service. Because I know how immeasurable, how priceless my presence and heart is, how needed it is for me to show up completely.
There would be no give and take. No tallying up what I’d given. Nothing but the pure honor of expending my whole self to serve those who want and can receive it.
Really, I think I got frustrated in that moment because I used to glorify service and sacrifice. I thought it was allll about dying to self, of foregoing self for the benefit of others. If it’s hurting me to give, depleting me to share, then is anyone truly benefiting? The recipient is receiving something that was stripped from another, albeit unwillingly willingly lol. Does that make sense at all?
I just can’t deny that there is no true service without the full 1000% participation of the heart, mind, and soul of the person giving. And that always always always requires esteem of and love for the self first.
That requires a full understanding of the value, appreciation, and esteem of self. After all, where else is the energy going to come from? Where else is the love, compassion, and generosity going to come from? Nowhere but the self. Nowhere. I can guarantee that.
In my opinion, service really starts with loving the self exclusively. It’s understanding, acknowledging, and being good to self exclusive of what it can do for others. It’s there that one can truly experience one’s power, potential, and strength. It’s also there, in the vacuum that one can clearly see the purpose and desire of their heart and soul, how they want to contribute to the world around them.
What inspires us from within? How do we know what kind of comforter we are for others when we haven’t paid attention to how we ourselves are comforted and rested in our own space? How do we know what kind of giver, how great a giver we are when we don’t even know what’s in our own storehouse?
What moves you to be of service to others? Yourself and the deeply felt compassion and generosity within? Or what’s expected of you?