For the Love (or Not) of Service
Sometimes I do not love service.
This (not surprisingly) can be inconvenient at times.
Service is a big part of what helped me stay in recovery from my eating disorder, especially during the early days.
Service is also what has helped me maintain that recovery – and grow stronger and stronger – in the many years since those early days.
Currently and for the past several years my primary service work has been through mentoring. I run a mentoring-based nonprofit called MentorCONNECT, where I oversee the organization’s behind-the-scenes (with a lot of awesome fellow helpers), offer my time as a mentor, write and speak about mentoring, lead meetings, and more.
It is time-consuming – sometimes very much so. It can also be stressful and worrisome, especially when new folks join the community and they are really struggling in their recovery. As well, volunteers come and go, members relapse and rebound, money is required to keep certain programs functioning (whether we happen to have those funds or not) – well, you get the picture.
It is also rewarding – to start something new and see it not only survive but grow up and begin to thrive – that part is undeniably nice.
But there have been many days along the way when I wondered what on earth I was thinking when I used to romanticize about being of service to others and how wonderful and fulfilling it would be.
Truly, there is nothing romantic about it. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever attempted to do. Serving people can be awkward, uncomfortable, even scary. It can be tremendously un-fulfilling, especially during those times when I set up specific expectations for what being of service to others will net me in return.
Service has asked me – time and again – to put my ego so far aside I temporarily forget I have one. Service has required me to learn to follow as well as lead, to ask for help, to say I’m sorry, to say “no” when I wish I could say “yes,” to accept that sometimes people really won’t like me and there is not one thing I can do about it.
Service is not about having other people like you. Darn it.
Service has demanded that I rise to occasions that make me want to run fast and hide, be the bigger person when my entire being begs to whine, admit I am oh-so wrong when parts of me still think I’m oh-so right, and return for ever more mentoring myself just so I can survive the experience of mentoring others.
Luckily, I was at least smart enough to draft my own longtime mentor, Lynn, to serve as Vice Chair to my Chair on MentorCONNECT’s board of directors. My mentor also helped me write parts of my book about mentoring, “Beating Ana.”
My mentor is an amazing woman.
In fact, if I am being totally truthful, sometimes my only motivation for continuing on in service is the hope of someday being a bit more like her – more wise, more loving, more selfless, more insightful, more calm, more compassionate, more connected within and without.
So while I do not always love being of service, I love the opportunities choosing to serve have brought me – including the chance to be a much better human being than I could ever become without service in my life.
Today’s Takeaway: How does being of service to others affect your relationship with yourself and with your personal loved ones? Does it ever feel uncomfortable or awkward to serve others? Do you ever wonder if it is okay not to love every minute of volunteering? What motivates you to stay in service and continue to give of yourself to others?
Cutts, S. (2014). For the Love (or Not) of Service. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 4, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/mentoring-recovery/2014/04/for-the-love-or-not-of-service/