What Does Serving Have to Do With Joy?

Bill Abbate

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I recently came across a quote from a gentleman regarded as one of the greatest writers of all time. Although he died more than a century ago, many of his words remain timeless. This quote talks about the reality of life and our reason for being.

"Life is a place of service, and in that service one has to suffer a great deal that is hard to bear, but more often to experience a great deal of joy. But that joy can be real only if people look upon their life as a service, and have a definite object in life outside themselves and their personal happiness." Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)

Life as a place of service

Have you ever considered your "life as a place of service"? Throughout life, everyone serves someone do they not? What parent does not know this? Or anyone who has ever held a job?

You may be self-employed, but you still serve someone with something. Without providing a product or service, you have no business.

There are only two times in life when we do not serve someone else. When we are born and helpless, our only service is to make our parents happy and proud, at least some of the time, but otherwise, we cannot serve. At the other end of life, when on our deathbed, we cannot physically serve any longer. The only thing we can do is serve them through our love and respect to the end.

But for all of that time in between, we serve and are served constantly. We gain meaning and purpose, wisdom, knowledge, and everything we need to live in serving.

Life, while hard to bear, results in joy

Anyone who serves must suffer things that are difficult to bear, must they not? Some of us suffer through school as a child. What we bear is often the result of other children, or it could be from a struggle to make good grades. Anyone who has served in the military knows what it means to suffer! Some of us must suffer working hard for decades and bear the difficulties of broken relationships, setbacks, and the many other things involved in living.

Fortunately, a great deal of joy can come out of difficulty. While I suffered as a child, constantly moving to other places and countries, the experience brought me joy later in life. While I did suffer through boot camp going into the military, I came out a far more disciplined person, able to enjoy life to a greater degree. Then there is also suffering from the loss of relationships and the subsequent joy when we establish them anew. You know this from experience, do you not?

"I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy." Rabindranath Tagore (1860-1941)

Joy in a life of service while Looking beyond ourselves.

To find real joy in life comes when we understand our life as one of service. That means a life of giving, through which we derive the greatest pleasures in life. Who doesn't love to give or serve those they love? We can even serve to the point we would sacrifice our life for some, as so many have done to protect those they love.

The type of love that allows us to serve with our life comes from an external object without personal happiness. Some things that come from outside us include other people, family, country, and God. Think about those who serve us in the military, police, fire, and rescue. Their external object of serving, often void of happiness, is we the people, although they can receive real joy from their work.

There is no better example of this type of service than Jesus Christ. His willingness to suffer on a cross for something outside himself (us) at the expense of his personal happiness at that time of his life. All to give us eternal life and joy. Now that is what I call the ultimate service, not to mention true love!

"We know that service is indispensable for bringing us close to the Savior and letting us feel his Spirit. In nothing do we resemble the Savior more than in serving others. So in nothing should we feel greater love and joy than in service." Chieko N. Okazaki (1926-2011)

Final thoughts

It is in contrast to the hard things we bear that we understand true joy in this life. Imagine a life lived selfishly with as little serving as possible. How many genuine relationships could such a person have? How could they find purpose and happiness? How could they find anything good in life?

To have no one in life to serve is to have no life. To be self-serving can lead only to misery in the end. Lasting joy In life always comes from serving others. To find love in any relationship requires serving.

While I do not want any more hard times in life, I am thankful for the joy that has resulted from difficulties that are now behind me. What joy lies ahead for us? Only real joy if we choose a life of service!

"Serving others helps strengthen your creativity by providing low-risk avenues of self-expression while making a difference in the lives of others. The joy of giving, the joy of creating, and the joy of helping come from service." Salli Rasberry (1940-present)

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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