Thursday, June 12, 2008

Consider yourself served...

It would seem there is a little bit of confusion in the world still about the difference between service and selfishness. Or maybe it's just the world that I am surrounded by.

I had an interesting conversation today with a friend. One of the things we talked about was how often people, we were talking specifics but it's true in general, label something as service when the real motivation behind it is selfish.

That was wordy. What I mean is: Person A does something with the intent of getting something and yet labels it as service.

I found myself reviewing the claims of service our friend has made over our relationship - and then I stopped myself. Because of course I've done the same thing.

The more I got thinking about this the more I hated to realize how often ulterior motives play into behavior. Maybe it's because I wanted to justify my selfish service, but I hit upon something. The hybrid of service and selfishness.

Self-serving. Now if only I'd come up with that first.

Like a hybrid car self-serving combines the best of both selfish acts and service. You've done a little bit of good but you haven't relieved the problem of dependence on ego lubrication.

For example I became an aunt for the first time yesterday (see, that's a self-serving statement). I would love to hop in the car under the premise of going to see Adeline Joy. The truth is that the reasons for going would both be to celebrate her birth, be with the new parents AND celebrate my new auntiehood, bask in the warmth of holding a new baby, and sneak in visits to all my friends.

The dirty little secret for me about self-serving isn't that I do it, or that it exists. It's that people decorate it up and try to pass it off as service. At least when someone is being really selfish they usually don't dress it up. In fact most selfish people are quite honest. Too much sometimes. But at least you know what you're getting.

Self-serving acts of "service" drive me crazy. It's the person who does nice things for people and then tells all her friends about it. Or who reminds you of a "favor" granted in order to ask for reciprocation. I have no problem doing nice things for people who do nice things for me (or even people who don't). I trust that when I need help people will reach out because of how they feel for me, not because they think they have to.

Maybe self-serving is too restrictive of a title - but it seems fair to me. Just don't gift wrap it as something else. Last I checked, none of the appointed saints actually lobbied for their own sainthood.

1 comment:

Terina said...

interesting. we'll have to talk about this.