What follows is the work of my wise recovery fellow, Dan. While he sent it to me as part of his regular emails, I thought his insight on service was well worth sharing, and he gave me permission to repost it as is.
Part of the prescription (and tools) for recovery from this disease of the ego is to do service for others. It is great when this service aligns itself with something that is clearly the will of God (for example: working in a soup kitchen to feed the poor…). Most service is mundane – like the service I did working at the hospital library as a librarian. Service does not have to be “big” nor is it ever “small” and inconsequential. You never know when your service may be a defining aid to someone else’s growth and happiness. My service has had ripple affects – I may not be aware of the outcomes of my service but I have faith that I am doing God’s will and therefore it has value.
One of my big character defects has been pride and aggrandizement (looking to be placed on a pedestal and admired). I have to be careful that the service that I do is not for self-aggrandizement, praise, recognition, advancement or power. While it may seem that I am doing service (head of a committee, President of the Home Owners Association…) am potentially accepting these positions so that others will view me with admiration or so that I can be a martyr? How do I know when my service is not based on God’s will but on my ego? I have identified some of the signs or signals that my service is really about myself:
1. When I repeatedly introduce myself with a title designating authority (Hi, I’m Dan, president of the Home Owner’s Association…).
2. When I hold more than 1 position of leadership at a time- when I am Chairman of this, President of that, and Director of something else.
3. When I do not step aside to let others lead or become involved.
4. When I am sure that, without my involvement, things will fall apart.
5. When I am too busy to take care of myself (exercise, prepare healthy meals…).
6. When I only volunteer for roles or service in which I know I can be successful.
7. When I forget to thank God for allowing me to be his instrument and make a difference.
Service that is not humble is not service. Service that is designed to do God’s will may have many elements of risk or discomfort to it – I may not succeed but that does not mean it is not a valuable service. Most important is that service for which I have an expectation of outcome is not service… it is often self-gratification. Just like surrender, service requires that I turn the outcomes over to God and not make them dependent on Dan’s timetable or expectations.
All of this is very hard. The best way to start is to do really humble service at the beginning – show up for meetings, lead a meeting, setup and cleanup of a meeting, attend as an intergroup rep, be involved in a roadside cleanup project… It is critical that I not compare myself to who I was at the height of some real or imagined point of power in my life, but that I remember who I am today in my evolving relationship with God and who has the real power. Then, perhaps, my service can be humble and provide benefits to others in unimaginable ways.