What does it mean to serve others and is it important?
Serving others can mean many things to different people. Depending upon how one sees their existence in our world and their relation to others can effect their views on what it means to serve others. Regardless of how one sees the world, a quick study on religion and worldviews would seem to point towards the idea that serving others is indeed almost universally important.
Within the Bhagavad Gita, a scripture which is significant to Hinduism, Prince Arjuna comes to his advisor and guide Krishna for advice concerning a threat of war within their land. In part of this conversation Krishna tells the Prince “through selfless service, you will always be fruitful and find the fulfillment of your desires. This is the promise of the creator….”
The Christian Bible makes multiple references to the importance of serving others. Galatians chapter 6 verse 2 advices Christians to “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ”.
Judaism has the mitzvah of tikkun olam which means “repairing or healing the world” and speaks to the commandment that Jewish people have to heal, repair and transform the world.
A line in the Second Mindfulness Training by Buddhist Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh is “I am committed to cultivate loving kindness and learn ways to work for the well-being of people, animals, plants and minerals. I am committed to practicing generosity by sharing my time, energy and material resources with those who are in real need”.
The Holy Quran states in Chapter 4:37 “and worship Allah and associate naught with him and show kindness to parents, and to kindred and orphans, and the needy, and to the neighbour that is a kinsman and the neighbour that is a stranger, and the companion by your side and the wayfarer, and those whom your right hand possess”.
During a 2011 debate held at the University of Notre Dame popular Atheist Sam Harris said “the minimum standard for moral goodness is to avoid the worst possible misery for everyone. If we do anything in this universe, if we ought to do anything, if we have a moral duty to do anything, it’s to avoid the worst possible misery for everyone”.
Across many differing world views and beliefs the importance of doing good not evil to those around us seems to be a bit of a common denominator. Now if this is the case, why then are the instances of suffering in our world so wide spread?
Might it be because while we know that serving others is important, the shift from knowing to doing has been missed by a great majority. Perhaps it is that we don’t know how to take that step from knowing to doing or that there are obstacles that get in the way of serving others.
Whatever it is that stands in the way of us serving others is also what is getting in the way of alleviating suffering in our world. Can you imagine what would be possible if we all served each other and put service to others at the forefront of our days and lives? Or even if we all put 10 percent of our being into serving others?
I have been exploring these ideas more and more and plan to post some more about serving others in the future so please look out for that.
Until next time I will leave you with the words of Maya Angelou