If you’re like most people I know, you have a job, career, or important role (such as parent) in which you function as a helper, server, or fixer. Maybe you’re a doctor, mechanic, lawyer, house cleaner, therapist, waiter, engineer, bookkeeper, realtor, chef, handyman, hairdresser, or assistant. Regardless of the job, you’re serving in some way, and the spirit in which you do this can make all difference in the world.
I recently came across a brilliant article, Helping, Fixing or Serving?, by Rachel Naomi Remen, author of Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories that Heal. Remen writes:
Helping, fixing and serving represent three different ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. Fixing and helping may be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul.
This reminded me of my younger days as a misguided rescuer. I don’t know why I did it, but I’d seek out people who I perceived to be incompetent to run their lives, and then spring into action to help or fix them, sometimes at great personal sacrifice. Did I see them as weak, and myself as strong? Yes. Did my “help” ever really benefit them?No. Why? Because they didn’t want to be helped or fixed, and they certainly didn’t want to seen as weak or incompetent.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to help one’s fellow human. That’s a beautiful thing. The problem we run into, though, is that the energy behind helping/fixing is often one of inequality. “You need my help,” or “Please fix me.” This is very different than the spirit ofservice that occurs when we see someone as whole while offering a helping hand or kind word. It’s the smiling waitress who warmly asks, “What can I get for you?,” or the therapist who assures his client, “You’re not alone…” Service doesn’t exclude helpfulness, but it implies and conveys respect and a much more level playing field.
To me, the distinction between helping/fixing and serving is like the difference between feeling sorry for someone and feeling compassion for their situation. In one, there’s a looking down quality or separation between us, and in the other there’s a heart connection and understanding of the shared human experience. This concept is, perhaps, best communicated in the Sanscrit greeting, Namaste,which translates as “the divine light in me acknowledges the divine light in you.”
This week, I invite you to notice the situations in which you find yourself acting as a helper, fixer, or server. It may vary quite a bit from relationship to relationship and from role to role, but you might notice a theme or pattern emerge that needs to be addressed (as I did with my former tendency to rescue people—from themselves, and against their will!).
Enjoy this shift in perception, and have a wonderful week.