As We Move Forward: On Being A Servant

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A servant is a person who performs duties for others, especially a person employed in a house on domestic duties or as a personal attendant. It seems unlikely that a “Help Wanted” ad for a servant would get a very positive response. Something about the word seems to run counter to the tendency in our culture to elevate ourselves in every way possible, including job titles. A casual look at modern history would reveal much about how the language surrounding being a servant has changed.

It is easy to conclude that people seem to want to get as far as possible from some of the aspects of being someone who does things for others. Probably a lot of that came from the connotation of a servant being completely out of control, totally dependent on others for direction and unable to count on any thanks or appreciation for anything they do. According to that broad definition of being a servant, anything a servant does is simply what is expected.

An interesting thing about the nature of being a servant is the considerable body of psychological evidence that a person can find true happiness and fulfillment only when they do things for others. When you think about people you know, are the more memorable ones people whose whole focus in life is about getting anything and everything they want—all the time? Do you admire people like this or those people who spend their lives and energy finding and doing what is best for other people?

There are some very revealing ways we can spot someone who is a true servant. In having or observing a conversation, does the other person spend all their time telling you everything about their life or listening for the things going on in the other person’s life. After the conversation, whose life do you know more about based on the conversation?

It becomes obvious almost immediately in dealing with a sales person or restaurant wait staff if the person is just there to do a job and get paid or if they genuinely care about discovering what the customer wants and needs. The difference is obvious. All of our relationships can be viewed from the perspective of whether or not servanthood is being practiced or not.

Helping

As we move forward, we can look at our lives and relationships in terms of how much service we receive and how much we give. A supervisor can be a servant if the focus of their efforts involves helping those they supervise become the best they can be at their jobs. It is both possible and desirable to act with a servant attitude without sacrificing respect or authority.

Service has been a well-respected tradition for most of history. Non-commissioned officers in the military serve a vital role supporting both officers and enlisted persons. This is just one of many models of effectively living a servant life.

As we move forward, let us consider the role of being a servant in our lives and our relationships.

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