I hope that this rare and precious Friday, August 13, 2021, finds you feeling healthy and well, nourished and loved. You’re worth it!
“I’m not much, but I’m all I think about!” I don’t know who to give credit to for quoting this, I just know that it wasn’t me. Though I didn’t say it first, it sure can apply to me. If your experience is anything like mine, then you’ll agree that we often have a preoccupation with self. Being of humble service is the antidote.
The more I reflect on my life and the more I work with others, the more I see how we tend to think about, ponder, and ruminate on what we need, want, and desire. When we’re thinking about ourselves, seldom are we comfortable and content. When you’re sitting in a boring business meeting or class, waiting on dinner, waiting to board an airplane or bus, or at a social gathering that you’d rather not be at, you fidget. Your seat is uncomfortable, you have a pebble in your shoe, it’s too hot or too cold, your elbow itches, something is in your eye, and well, pretty much nothing is going right. This uncomfortableness brings about thoughts on how your life would be so much better if you were somewhere else, you had a different job, a different partner, that new gadget, or maybe that piece of chocolate cake you passed by just an hour before.
However, when you’re focused intently on someone or something else, seldom do we fidget. When our attention is directed outward, rarely are we concerned with the temperature, itches, and how our clothes bind when we sit. No, we don’t notice these little irritations that drive us nuts when we’re not so interested in what’s happening outside of us. The more we think about others, the less we think about ourselves.
The best definition of humility I’ve heard is, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.” C.S. Lewis.
The greatest practical lesson in humility was given to me by a dear friend and mentor more than ten years ago. I continue to use this method today – sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much. It was suggested by Rick, may he rest in peace, that I secretly do something nice for someone and not tell anyone about it. I accepted his challenge. I donned my winter attire and cleared the snow from a couple homes near mine. I was so excited about my sneakiness that I told Rick all about how I shoveled their walkways and they never suspected it was me. He said that I missed the point; I wasn’t supposed to tell him either. I learned in that moment about my incessant need for recognition and approval. Doing kind and generous things because it’s the right thing to do is one thing, doing them and expecting something in return is another.
Being of service and doing things for others and expecting some sort of acknowledgement is better than not helping others. However, if we practice doing this enough, we come to expect recognition. And if we don’t get the respect that we think we deserve, we may have thoughts suggesting that “those people are ungrateful, and I’ll never do anything for them again.” Our service to others becomes more about us than them. In this situation, our focus is turned inward, and we know what happens when our focus is turned inward – we get uncomfortable.
It’s normal for people to desire to be respected and appreciated for what they do. This is a good reminder to let others know that you value them for their service. However, when we can learn to let go of our need to be recognized for doing the right thing, we are able to do the right thing for its own sake. When we do the right thing for its own sake, we create the conditions for humility to arise which fosters peace and a deep sense of meaning and purpose that is not dependent upon what or how others think about us. By being of service to others because it’s the right thing to do, we become our own source of well-being.
I invite you to secretly do something nice for someone, and not tell a soul.
You are Loved by me, Unconditionally!
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