Devotion to Service and Ego Satisfaction
Part of any recovery plan involves other people, and often involves an element of service to others. Two reasons occur to me why this is important:
Those saddled with addictions, or a pattern of thinking errors, have perhaps been wrapped up in their own assumptions, judgments and dramas for awhile. Like the saying “can’t see the forest for the trees”, it is a big shift in reality when we come out of the fog of our drama and begin to see the trees of society in a different way.. Coming into right relationship with family and community can be painful, but ultimately it is where we can begin to weigh our own thinking in the context of a larger group. That’s where change and growth can root.
Serving others begins to erode the wall we construct around ourselves, especially for those who have come to believe “I’m the victim here!” Contributing to the well-being of fellow humans , animals and the larger world is satisfying because we all want to belong and to be seen for our caring. But, in addition, being in service will often take us out of a place of self pity (and maybe self loathing) into a healthier place of interrelationship.
The subject of ego involvement in service is complicated. For simplicity sake, I will say that for me, there’s nothing wrong with having an ego. And, being able to witness our behavior from another perspective is a way to keep the ego from being the dictator. People of faith will sometimes invoke the source of their being (Jesus, Allah, the Holy Spirit, etc.) when they talk about keeping a leash on ego. They might say that divine guidance keeps the intention of service focused on giving and receiving, not just reward for “being good.”
A friend recently returned from an annual retreat where she stated that she is striving for “purposelessness”. In other words, she wants to reduce the chances that her giving will be used in service to ego gratification. Ultimately, she says she hopes to achieve a place where ego doesn’t exist, but rather she becomes purely an instrument of divine blessing to others.
For those of us with our feet still stuck in the clay of bad habit and ego fulfillment, however, it may be enough to begin to see ourselves in both modes; in one instance being addicted to getting rewarded for our good works, and the other instance being filled with joy merely because we’re contributing to another’s need, while also living in alignment with our deepest values.