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  • Writer's pictureBrian Matzke

In The Service of life

I read this article recently and it resonated deeply with my current life journey. What I realized in my path of over doing, over pushing and over helping was that I lacked the essence of service. I have truly come to understand how seeing someone healed and whole not only lifts them up but also does the same for the service giver. To powerfully step into a place of service and remain fully charged we must see the other person as healed and whole.

In recent years the question how can I help? has become meaningful to many people. But perhaps there is a deeper question we might consider. Perhaps the real question is not how can I I help? but how can I serve?

Serving is different from helping. Helping is based on inequality; it is not a relationship between equals. When you help you use your own strength to help those with lesser strength. If I'm attentive to whats going on inside of me when I'm helping, I find that I'm always helping someone not as strong as I am, who is needier than I am. People feel this inequality. When we help we may inadvertently take away from people more than we could ever give them; we may diminish their self esteem; their sense of worth; integrity and wholeness. When I help I am very aware of my own strength. But we don't serve with our strength, we serve with ourselves. We draw from all our experiences. Our limitations serve, our wounds serve, even our darkness can serve. The wholeness in us serves the wholeness in others and the wholeness of life. The wholeness in you is the same as the wholeness in me. Service is a relationship between equals.

Helping incurs debt. When you help someone they owe you one. But serving, like healing, is mutual. There is no debt. I am as served as the person I am serving. When I help I have a feeling of satisfaction. When I serve I have a feeling of gratitude. These are very different things.

Serving is also different from fixing. When I fix a person I perceive them as broken and their brokenness requires me to act. When I fix I do not see the wholeness in the other person or trust the integrity of life in them. When I serve I see and trust that wholeness. It is what I am responding to and collaborating with.

There is a distance between ourselves and whatever and whomever we are fixing. Fixing is a form judgement. All judgement creates distance, a disconnection, an experience of difference. In fixing there is an inequality of expertise that can easily become a moral distance. we can only serve that to which we are profoundly connected, that which we are willing to touch. This is Mother Theresa's basic message. We serve life not because it is broken, but because it is Holy.

This was adapted from talk given at IONS fourth annual conference " open heart open mind" by Rachel Naomi Remen

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