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Helping, Fixing, Serving

--by Rachel Remen (May 29, 2000)


Service is not the same as helping. Helping is based on inequality, it's not a relationship between equals. When you help, you use your own strength to help someone with less strength. It's a one up, one down relationship, and people feel this inequality. When we help, we may inadvertently take away more than we give, diminishing the person's sense of self-worth and self-esteem.

Now, when I help I am very aware of my own strength, but we don't serve with our strength, we serve with ourselves. We draw from all our experiences: our wounds serve, our limitations serve, even our darkness serves. The wholeness in us serves the wholeness in the other, and the wholeness in life. Helping incurs debt: when you help someone, they owe you. But service is mutual. When I help I have a feeling of satisfaction, but when I serve I have a feeling of gratitude.

Serving is also different to fixing. We fix broken pipes, we don't fix people. When I set about fixing another person, it's because I see them as broken. Fixing is a form of judgement that separates us from one another; it creates a distance.

So, fundamentally, helping, fixing and serving are ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak; when you fix, you see life as broken; and when you serve, you see life as whole.

When we serve in this way, we understand that this person's suffering is also my suffering, that their joy is also my joy and then the impulse to serve arises naturally - our natural wisdom and compassion presents itself quite simply. A server knows that they're being used and has the willingness to be used in the service of something greater. We may help or fix many things in our lives, but when we serve, we are always in the service of wholeness.

--Rachel Remen, from Zen Hospice


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13 Previous Reflections:

 
On Nov 22, 2015 David wrote:

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On Aug 19, 2015 Angela wrote:

 Thank you Rachel for these beautiful words. Until now I hadn't understood the difference between serving and helping. 



On Jan 1, 2013 Josh wrote:
Rachel, thank you for sharing your beautiful thoughts. I feel that we could even move beyond service to an ethic of stewardship, which will take us to an even more equitable, integrated and holistic place and create a sense of universal and shared responsibility.

On Dec 30, 2012 Henna wrote:
Wow, what a profound message in such few words. Thank you for sharing. Helping comes from a place of ego. Serving comes from a place of spirit.


On Dec 30, 2012 MP wrote:
 This is what we are doing here at The Rudolph Steiner Fellowship Community.  

On Dec 29, 2012 Brigitte Kupfer wrote:

Thank you for creating clarity about service of wholeness. It reminded me also of what Pema Choedroen said: “Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It's a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” from Pema Chödrön, The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times .....and also of Leila Watson: " If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come here because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together." Lilla Watson, Aboriginal educator  See full.

Thank you for creating clarity about service of wholeness. It reminded me also of what Pema Choedroen said:
“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It's a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”

from Pema ChödrönThe Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times

.....and also of Leila Watson: " If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come here because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together." Lilla Watson, Aboriginal educator

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On Dec 29, 2012 Britta wrote:
 Thank you so much Rachel for expressing this dynamic so beautifully. This is when we can truly experience unity when we understand this difference.

On Dec 8, 2012 Guido Machielsen wrote:
 Dear madam, sir,

Very intereresting reflection! Where can I find an article or book about this subject? Thanks for your advice!!!

On Dec 13, 2011 Alexia wrote:

Wonderful



On Oct 20, 2011 Gretchen Robinson wrote:

 I am in my 6th year as a hospice chaplain and I've long admired Rachel Remen's books.  This reflection is so important in stating so clearly what our basic attitude needs to be: one of service.  



On May 19, 2010 Lenny Fitzgerald wrote:

Music of hope, & deep spiritual inflection

http://www.myspace.com/lennyfitzgerald



2 replies: Ali, Barger | Post Your Reply
On Sep 19, 2007 Rajee Seetharam wrote:
Doly , I admire you...hats off 2U !!!!

On Jun 29, 2007 Paul wrote:
I approve of the emphasis on equality. But, I feel the opposite about the words "help" and "serve". Help is something we do for free, and it's ok to accept help when we need it, or let it go when we need to stand on our own. It is a relationship among equals and caring people.

Service is not about equals. If I serve you, I am working for you, and you get the mistaken impression of being higher than another. There is a positive feeling of equality among those who help. But a feeling of being used among those who serve.

The principle of the message does not seem to be about equality so much as it is about the humbling of one's self.