Service, in its deepest sense, is an act of love. By serving others, I am sharing myself. I am giving something very personal to those I serve. I am expressing my love of humanity through my personal acts of service. I am showing those I serve that I accept them and wish to help them move forward. Being in service is to embrace our mutual humanity and to express our acceptance and understanding of what we all share.
As well, what I do in service is always a unique act, because it comes from me. While the actual service I provide may be the same service that someone else might provide, because my service comes from me—because I am the one who is giving of myself—my service is unique. My service has unique meaning to me; and as well, can have unique meaning to those I serve.
But those I serve must appreciate my service, else the bond of love is broken. If I give of myself through service, but those whom I serve take my service for granted—if they ignore or marginalize, or worse, demean, or belittle my efforts—the virtuous cycle of service is broken. My service is unappreciated; therefore, my social value is diminished, and those I serve lose the opportunity to share in the joy of having been served by me. Our bond of service is broken. Service has become servitude.
The essential contract of service entails the generosity to serve, as well as the grace of gratitude in acceptance of that effort. Service without gratitude is devoid of meaning.
But if we provide a given service without any compensation beyond simple gratitude, that service comes purely from love. Such service is a purely moral act. Pure service is the highest expression of love, respect, virtue, and honor we can pay on another. Graceful acceptance and gratitude for such service is equally honorable, virtuous, respectful, and an act of love.
Of course, our capitalist economic system requires that we get paid for rendering services. That’s pretty much the definition of a job: do this, get paid that. However, this is a limitation of our economic system, not of service itself. We have chosen to attach financial compensation to service in order to satisfy the requirements of capitalism, not because service requires additional compensation in and of itself.
This artificial relationship between service and compensation is the source of much strife, frustration, and angst, primarily because this ad hoc relationship is antithetical to the Rule of Service. It places artificial restrictions on and introduces completely foreign value systems to our essential human activity of service and gratitude. Taking one of the most cherished aspects of our humanity and turning it into just another cheap transactional means for profit is perhaps the most insidious transgression that capitalism has imposed upon us.
This artificial relationship between service and compensation is the source of much strife, frustration, and angst, primarily because this ad hoc relationship is antithetical to the Rule of Service. It places artificial restrictions on and introduces completely foreign value systems to our essential human activity of service and gratitude. Taking one of the most cherished aspects of our humanity and turning it into just another cheap transactional means for profit is perhaps the most insidious transgression that capitalism has imposed upon us. Nevertheless, we are forced to work within these stifling confines of capitalism in order to provide for ourselves and our families. In that regard, we are essentially forced into service, whether we like it or not. Our personal attitude towards that coerced “service” can make all the difference in how we go forward in our daily business transactions. In fact, it is our attitude that can define the difference from being placed into service and being stuck in servitude.
I may be compensated for my service, yet still retain the spirit of our essential human contract, if the recipient of my service offers willing appreciation, and I perform my service not simply for the compensation itself. Getting paid is only the economic necessity of my vocation. It is not the intrinsic motivation of my providing the service that I have chosen to perform in the first place. This is a question of attitude, but also a question of need. When I am in service simply because I need to be compensated, that is not truly being in service. That is simply being employed. But if I am in service because I love to help people or I love what I do, and I also receive monetary gain as a result of my actions, I can still be in a service relationship. True, the aspect of ancillary compensation tends to sully the relationship; but my initial inspiration to serve still defines my intentions, and the service relationship therefore remains intact.
I could provide any service and get paid for it. My recipient may even be grateful for the service I have rendered. But if I have performed this service simply for the economic compensation I received, my service has become just another job done in the name of commerce. It lacks heart. It lacks passion. It lacks the central inspiration of the Rule of Service. It is an amoral act. It is not really service at all. It’s just another task done by an employee or contractor. It’s only meaning is that it has forwarded the economic or personal interests of my company or of myself; and, if done well, has forwarded some economic or personal interest of the recipient. But it’s still only an insincere facsimile of true service. It’s just and only a job.
But if I can put myself in service—knowing full well that I am doing so to be financially compensated—but somehow retain the essential spirit of service through the joy I feel performing what I do and the gratitude and appreciation I receive apart from any financial compensation, then I can retain at least part of the dignity of a true service relationship. I can salvage some humanity and grace, even within a tainted economic transaction in the business of capitalistic endeavors.
The key to a successful business-service transaction is the service/gratitude cycle. As a recipient, to truly show gratitude and appreciation, simply paying my provider isn’t enough. I really need to show my appreciation…to genuinely thank the person who has served me. The giving and receiving of service and the reciprocation of appreciation and gratitude consummates the essential social contract. Further compensation is ancillary—merely a token—though it may be essential in an economic context. But the purely social context of human interaction demands only the will to serve, the act of service, and the grace of gratitude. When it comes down to it, morality and service are really very simple. Help people because we want to be helpful. Thank people for what they do.