I wrote this for church several years ago. I still agree with the sentiment. And I’m better now.
In terms of serving other people, I do what I can, for whom I can. I try to respond to the call of need of those immediately around me. Not just those who attend my church. I try to pay attention. And I do it because I want to. Because it brings me joy.
And if it doesn’t? Working on it.
We can start there. That’s a good start to good stuff. If everyone did that? We’d have a better world.
Altruism /æltru●ĭzǝm/ n. a concern for the welfare of others without any benefit to one’s self.
AKA-doing good stuff for other people and you don’t get nothin’ for it.
Many cultures and religions prioritize this concept of altruism. It is certainly a key tenet of Christ’s teachings (the words that came out of Christ’s mouth), even if some Christians don’t follow.
Interestingly though, many people are skeptical of completely selfless service. True altruism can in no way satisfy the giver. It must be an act of sacrifice in which the giver receives nothing. Educated opinions differ as to whether pure altruism even exists.
I believe that we are created with an innate sense of concern for others. I do. We are built for doing good. We are, after all, made in the image of God. But as with all divine design, we can pervert, mangle, void and totally destroy God’s gift with our own skewed perspective. We’re not perfect.
PLUS! We are imprinted with tons of distorted viewpoints by the age of reason. We are taught to be cautious, self-protecting, guarded, skeptical, closed. Instead of running naked (emotionally!), open, arms stretched out to total strangers embracing each other in love. Get outta here, Hippie!
Your life should bring you J-O-Y!
I was taught, from a very young age, that one could live life in an extremely simple, specific way and espouse this value above all others, JOY.
It’s easy, your priorities will fall into these categories:
I learned this lesson early and for the most part, I have lived my life this way. Sometimes, the letters got jumbled along the way. And sometimes the letters were missing, altogether.
Even so, I have usually put others’ feelings and welfare above my own, but the reasons were borne of fear and selfishness. There was no J-O-Y in it. My thoughts were these:
If I don’t put God first, He will be angry with me and punish me.
If I don’t put my family and friends first, they won’t love me.
If I don’t put myself last, I am selfish and lazy.
I didn’t do good for goodness sake, I was wrapped in negative motivations. I was simply trying to avoid the bad. Over the past decade, however, I have tried to put others first out of an idealistic will, to take the selfishness out of serving, to do good for God. I wanted that desire to fill me up and bring me joy. That desire has landed me in an unexpected place. I am still struggling with the same negative motivations.
Whenever I am asked to do something, I complain, out loud or in my heart. I am still wrapped in fear. My thoughts have developed to these:
If I don’t put God first, I’m not truly a Christian.
If I don’t put my family and friends first, I do not love or I’m not truly a friend.
If I don’t put myself last, I have failed.
In the past few months, I have come crashing down. I have staked my value in service and it has failed. I have tried to do more, serve more, give more than ever before and it has not brought me any closer to God. My marriage is suffering, my child is neglected, my heart is grumbling and dark. When you get to the root of it, I am an incredibly broken, screwed-up failure. My strategies for life are just as twisted as someone who only looks out for number 1. I am fooled and tricked by my own misunderstanding. I wish I truly cared for people the way Christ did. I wish that I could wrap my arms around the whole hurting world. I wish that my actions reflected a pure love for God.
I’ve been trying to define altruism for myself or letting others define it for me when I should look to God’s definition for my life and look at myself through His eyes.
For several years, my husband and I served at our local church, we were on the drama team, served in children’s church, wrote stories, scripts, essays and lesson plans. We unloaded fireworks, made movies, cooked, cleaned, listened, directed and an endless list of tasks. And others did even more than we did.
But. Our salvation. We were just as much in need of salvation on the last day of our time there as our first.
Salvation. It’s not a game. You try to put points up on that board, but somehow it never measures up to Jesus’ sacrifice, does it? I need to stop keeping score. Jesus zeros the board every single day. And that’s always in our favor. How many times do I screw up in a day? Let’s just say, I keep the statisticians busy.
Salvation is not about earning points on our way to heaven. It’s about letting heaven come down to take over the game, our will and desire: our heart, mind, body and soul. When we do that, the definition for altruism will simply read:
/æltru●ĭzǝm/ n. see God.