“Many times when we help we do not really serve. . . . Serving is also different from fixing. One of the pioneers of the Human Potential Movement, Abraham Maslow, said, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.’ Seeing yourself as a fixer may cause you to see brokenness everywhere, to sit in judgment of life itself. When we fix others, we may not see their hidden wholeness or trust the integrity of the life in them. Fixers trust their own expertise. When we serve, we see the unborn wholeness in others; we collaborate with it and strengthen it. Others may then be able to see their wholeness for themselves for the first time.”
- From ‘The Journey toward Tolerance, Compassion, and Service” (Galen Tinder and Bill White):
Compassion marks a movement beyond tolerance towards a greater capacity for intimacy. It abandons distance and draws us toward a person through recognition of our shared humanity—recognition of our mutual suffering and mutual aspirations. It requires quieting the self and facing the world with an open heart and mind. It calls us to slow down, cease our internal dialogues, cease judgment, humbly place our own views on probation, and fully listen (actively attend) to the stories of others—via a ministry of presence. These are critical steps in self-emancipation and experiencing common ground with others. In some cases, it first requires forgiving those who we perceive to have injured us in some way.
Compassion is not flabby, nor does it eschew asking pointed questions or making determinations about the harmful actions of others. But it is a commitment of understanding and emotional connection. And like newly developing muscle, it requires regular effort on our part if it is to fully develop. Rarely does it come without invitation or flourish if unattended. By compassionately entering another person’s world and by hearing and absorbing (identifying with) their experience, another brick in our self-absorption falls away.
Compassion, grounded in gratitude and humility, elicits unseen acts of generosity and unpaid acts of service to others. Such acts are embodied most visibly within the service ethic within secular, spiritual, and religious communities of recovery and serve multiple functions. Service is an actionable expression of compassion that expands relational connection with people beyond our inner circle. It is a medium of character reconstruction. It can aid the expiation of guilt and serve as a form of generic restitution for addiction-related harm to others. Service can also be a means of strengthening one’s own commitment to recovery—strengthening one’s own hope by serving as a recovery carrier to others. When a community of recovering people commit themselves to service, they become a catalyst for the healing of communities that have been wounded by addiction and related problems. That is when people who in the past been part of the problem rise to become part of the solution.
How do you find things of interest to you that will keep you happy and fulfilled in service opportunities? Do a quick checklist. Is this choice allowing me being able to feel like I support myself and others? Is it going to allow me to create energy or am I sucking energy?
The second piece is to ask yourself, does this fit? So, we can use F.I.T.S. as an acronym that was created by the Navy SEAL’s. The F is literally the word fit, f-i-t. does this charity, does this opportunity fit your lifestyle, fit your budget, fit your time capacity? Is it going to be the best use of your time and your talent and your energy? What would it cost you to engage in this charitable opportunity? And does the return on investment make it worth the effort?
The second letter is I, Important… How important is this donation or charity to your broader purpose or your overall mission in life? If you’re a business, what affect will it have on your competitors? This may be a competitive edge. I personally don’t find anything wrong with serving other people and personally gaining from it. That’s called alignment.
Third, is the T, Timing. Is the timing right for this charity? Are you too early or are you possibly too late? Are you ready? See, we can have a desire and say, “oh I want to go build a house for charity.” But you may not be ready for it, you may not have the skills or the time or the money to pull it off. When we look at a TV program where, they would come in and tear down somebody’s house and then make build another house in a week’s time. Here is what you didn’t see or didn’t hear about where the people that got these homes then couldn’t afford the new taxes from the improvements made. Many people ended up being out of the home because it wasn’t a good FIT. In some cases, they jumped on the pyramid from survival to success and skipped stability and feel back down. If they had built something based on what they already had that was new clean and pretty, their taxes would have stayed about the same.
And then fourth letter S, Simplicity. Looking at when we donate beyond ourselves is Simplicity. Is it simple and clear? Is it something that you can achieve without degrading your reputation, your future capacities, or are you moving you away from your purpose or your mission? You may see on TV that people in a distant country need to build water wells, but how would you be able to participate? Is there already an organization doing this or would you have to figure out how many people, money, the politics of the country and time you would need to travel to your destination just to make one well happen? This might not be a simple task no matter how well our intention.
For me, I take mission teams to other countries and I build missionary adventures. It takes a lot of work but it F.I.T.S. my life purpose and core values. When I go to Guatemala, I am part of a founding Board for a foundation in Guatemala. I build teams and take them there every year. It may be a lot of work, but the benefit is that people who go on these trips have these amazing experiences. I find when I take somebody down to a third world country, they realize how good they have it in the US. They suddenly receive gratitude for what they already have. When they return home, they are more charitable within their own communities. For me when I go, I it serves as a lasting memory that I have a very good life. Sometimes we forget about what we have because we get so stuck in our routines.