Monday, February 15, 2016

Understanding Selfless Service, Selfishness, and Self-lostness

There are many wonderful people out in the world working to help others. Through selfless service to the world, humanity, nature, and the Divine, we can bring about many positive, helpful, and necessary changes. We can help create a more sustainable way of living. We can learn to better honor and respect all the animals and other lifeforms that are sharing this earthly rental unit with us. We can help other human beings to relieve physical forms of suffering as much as possible and greatly reduce emotional and mental forms of suffering. There is so much that is possible through selflessness.

But oftentimes, people don't really understand selflessness. Selfish motives often underpin seemingly selfless actions. On the other side, some people do so much for others that they become self-lost. They lose their sense of themselves and what is healthy for them. Thus, their service becomes damaging to themselves. This is the path of many wounded healers.

7 Signs that You're a Wounded Healer

On this note, I wanted to help people better understand what it means to be of service so that you can serve in healthy ways that support you and others from the place of the truest love and kindness.

Self-lostness: Doing too Much for Others

Self-lostness is today's made-up word. Whenever language is failing you, create a new word. Language should always be in service to us, and we should not be constricted by words when it is unnecessary.

Self-lostness is being lost in the pursuit to help others. The person is so externally focused on fixing others' situations that they have no idea how they feel or potentially how to take care of themselves. Many people naturally have beautiful roles as caretakers and some even as spiritual caretakers, but if the caretaker is not healthy and clear in him or herself, it is easy to become exhausted. It's because many who are self-lost are giving of all their energy to other things without trusting the Divine to supply the rest. Please remember that we are little water droplets, and the Divine is the ocean. We can help form little ripples and waves of positive change, but the Divine will is what will really makes those waves come alive. The Divine supplies all the power, love, and more that is needed.

Doing too much is also a sign of hidden issues in the person. It can be a kind of running away, or this kind of self-lostness can have hidden selfish motives to make the person feel good by helping others. For many who are self-lost, the approval of others can be a goal much like with someone who is more openly and obviously selfish in their service. Sometimes, the person is more focused on getting their own approval. Depending on the person's ego, the bar may be set really high in regards to what s/he has to do to get their own approval. So the person may have to put forth a TON of energy just to feel like they've done enough. Most people don't realize they're doing this, and it is very easy to get caught up giving and giving and giving without "giving" these actions a second thought. The result is that the person can crash really hard emotionally or physically, and they can also sabotage some of the goals and service that they are working so hard on.

Feeling Like You're Not Enough

Self-lostness Leads to Deeper Confusion and Damage

Interestingly enough, the more self-lost someone is, the more confused they often are about how to help others. They can take what some people say they need at face value when some people have absolutely no idea what they need. It's like asking a heroin addict what they want; they'd tell you they want heroin. Conversely, someone who is deeply self-lost can also impose their ideas on others rather than listening. That's like giving someone who is hungry but also allergic to peanuts some peanut butter to eat. The resulting situation could be really bad, and then the self-lost person may wonder what went wrong.

What went wrong is the person has no idea how to take care of themselves, and that lack of clarity clouds their ability to discern what is needed in the situations and places they are serving. The more clear we are inside, the easier it is to listen and to hear the truth in any given situation. So the heroin addict gets sent to a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, and the person allergic to peanuts gets some other food that doesn't have peanuts in it. A lot of human realities become way more obvious when we are relaxed and at peace within ourselves.

Coming Back to Healthy Service for the Self-lost

For those who are self-lost, they typically have to learn how to focus on themselves again. This can be confusing because they often have ideas that doing so is selfish. But this is not the case. Especially for those who understand oneness, we are all united. If one of us is drained or imbalanced, then that influences the whole. As such, when we practice self-love and do our inner work, we are inherently helping all of humankind with that kindness. That is the truth of our interconnection. In helping ourselves to be clear and healthy, that inherently leads us towards greater clarity in where we can best be of service. Sometimes the best service to another is no service. Some people need to fall down to learn to pick themselves back up. Otherwise, they may lean on a person as a crutch for their whole lives. Conversely, some people need a temporary crutch, but you can only know the truth when you are clear about yourself. From that clarity and self love, the benefits of your service become truly vast.

For more thoughts on differentiating between self-love and ego love, check out this post:

Understanding the Difference Between Self Love and Ego Love

Selfishness: Discovering its Many Forms

Most people have some idea of what selfishness is. Essentially, it's doing something only for our own personal gain. Unlike self-love, selfishness is motivated by ego love, which is built up of all kinds of ideas, past pains, and other beliefs about what it means to feel good about oneself. Most of the time, people think of selfishness as making lots of money, having to get the perfect dress to look a certain way, forcing one's own opinions on others, having to be the best and win at things, and so forth. But selfishness sneaks right in to the world of service. For example, there are plenty of non-profit people who only care about achieving their goals for their cause. If anything or anyone gets in the way of what they want, they will fight tooth and nail against the adversity because...you know, it's all for a good cause.

But whatever the cause is, the attitude is a corrupt one. The person may seem to be doing great work to find funding to help cure heart disease, but they are really doing it for themselves. Some of you may feel like the ends justify the means, but on the spiritual path, we appreciate that "how" we do things has a huge impact on the outcome. By staying in the present moment, we often find better solutions to things than trying to force a future outcome to happen and trampling on others who may or may not be in our way. For example, a non-profit executive director might overrule her subordinates ideas and miss the validity of what is being offered because it doesn't fit what she thinks should happen. It's incredibly arrogant and selfish, and it happens a lot.

Healing Selfishness: Understanding Your own Motives

Healing selfishness requires us to turn the mirror back on ourselves and ask, "Why am I doing this?" Then, as always, we have to be sincere. We have to really look at if what we are doing is to make ourselves feel good and get approval for all the work we are doing, or are we doing what simply seems most natural and true? This latter part is often foreign to people, especially those who are used to fighting for things. There is no doubt that a lot of tenacity and perseverance is required to champion human rights causes, environmental causes, and anything that rocks the boat. But we can do those things from a place of service to others rather than a need to fight and prove ourselves. And let's be clear, a lot of the reason some people fight for causes is to prove something to themselves and others. It's not as much about the cause as many people would like to believe.

This leads me right back to honesty. We have to be unblinkingly honest with ourselves. Only we can know ourselves and if we're truly championing a cause for others or for ourselves. The more we like praise and awards, the more critical we have to be of ourselves. If you can work on an issue with no possibility for praise or success and do it all alone in the dark, then you very likely are offering selfless service. If the idea that you won't succeed or people won't like what you do bothers you, then some ego issues are already showing themselves. I'm not saying to not enjoy a compliment or your own inner satisfaction, but that should always be SECONDARY to the selfless service you offer. Otherwise, you are corrupting your work with your own selfish desires, and that can bear strange fruit.

Following a Path of Selfless Service

As I said at the beginning, selfless service is a beautiful thing. It simply is serving others as you are moved to serve with no intent of gain and doing so within your own beautiful abilities.

And more of this service is needed in our world today. With so many people focused only on getting what they want, selfless service is an important tonic to heal so many lost souls. People need to see others offering selfless service whether it is getting coffee for the office, setting up chairs for a meditation night, loving your children, working to get better wage equality for women, or something else. The more people see these acts, the more likely they are to do the same because people are mimics. We practice what we see. If we see selfishness or self-lostness, we will practice the same for the most part.

So as always, I encourage you to step into your own truth and your individual selfless service as a kind of spiritual pioneer. Help others to see the way, but do so by being you. Do only what feels true to your soul. In so doing and more importantly being, others may take up your example and help shine a little more much needed light and love on the world.

If you are unclear about how to get started on your spiritual journey and understand self-love, check out this post:


How to Start Your Spiritual Journey



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