A friend made a comment to me that serving others puts people in a hierarchy. He said it puts one person over the other. The server who has knowledge or skill is in a position of strength and the served, the person with the need, is in a lower position because they are reliant on another for success.
While not an idea I had never heard before, I told him that it ran counter to my experience. My experience has typically been one where the server was thought to be lower on the scale since they were subject to the whims of the served.
After thinking about all this however, I have concluded that both suppositions are wrong.
Humans have a natural inclination to help. This is well documented in research. As much as we think humans are selfish creatures with only their own interests at heart, it just is not so, at least not in our infancy. It is only later in our youth where we learn more self-centered behaviors from the attitudes and behaviors of others.
The evolution of our helpful nature began thousands of years ago when we were part of a very violent existence with predators at every turn. Most of these predators were bigger, faster, and stronger than us. If we had not helped each other and looked out for each other, we would not be here today. If you read Darwin carefully, you will see that he knew it, too. He did not see life as survival of the fittest, that was a distortion perpetuated by the social-Darwinist Herbert Spencer. In contrast, Darwin was more supportive of survival of the friendliest and most helpful. You see, what he observed was that those who were kinder and more cooperative had an easier time finding mates and thus perpetuating the species.
If you are still skeptical and believe that selfishness is our natural state, consider the number of times you have seen people pour out helpfulness when disasters or calamities happen. Think about how people came together after 9/11. Think about how many times we see people drop divisive rhetoric and behaviors when catastrophic weather destroys neighborhoods and homes. They come out to deliver food, help clean up, and provide shelter. It appears that helpfulness is our go-to when emergencies grip us.
Given this, when opportunities to help present themselves, and they present themselves a lot, we are given a chance to do something our human nature wants to do, and in fact, needs us to do. This means both server and served are getting needs fulfilled, both are on an even plane. No one is above or below the other.
Note: If you are one to think serving is beneath you – “I’m the boss, I don’t serve anyone”— here is a change in thinking that might help you see things differently. Instead of looking at service as something akin to being a servant as in the phrase ‘in service of’ someone, start considering it in terms of delivering value as in the phrase ‘of service to’ someone.
Here’s the bottom line. When we serve others, we are given the opportunity to fulfill our own natural desire to be helpful, and when we are served, we get the help we need to achieve our goals. Both people are actually providing a service for each other. Both people are on equal footing. Neither is better or greater than the other.
The ability and desire to serve or help each other is something Mother Nature has endowed us with for our own good. Take time to consider its importance. It changed our world thousands of years ago and it can again if we take courage and reach deep to find our true human roots.
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