Throughout the years, there has been a steady amount of academic research, business experience, and personal testimony in support of the concept that when we view our role as serving others, we form a strong foundation from which to create value. Whether we are serving our customers, the teams we work on, members of our family, or people in our community, the idea of serving others helps strengthen our efforts to accomplish great things.
In the service of others, especially in the home, we have a clear opportunity to meet our greatest need which is to know that we matter to someone. Even as we have an abundance of opportunity to meet this need in the home, practical experience would tell us that this need is often met on the job and in the community given the many conflicts that arise in the home. Given the truth that no accomplishment can compensate for a failure at home, the need to sustain an attitude of service in the home is critical.
As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, there is an important paradox in the role of serving others in the home that we need to understand as we genuinely work to meet this important personal need of knowing that we matter to someone.
We have all heard the saying, “opposites attract.” It is definitely true in the scientific world and it also seems very common in the human condition with finding a mate. We see the real-life examples of this all around us:
The “organizer” who is paired with the messy and frantic.
The “stable and secure” with the chaotic and risky.
The “provider” being able to help the one in need.
The “afflicted and struggling” being supported and encouraged to change by the martyr.
We all bring certain strengths to a relationship and we use those strengths in an honest, genuine attempt to serve and help our mate. Most healthy relationships are grounded in serving one another. This heart-felt commitment to serve and support our mate provides the foundation for meeting our deep personal need to know we matter to someone.
Most often, we feel secure in using our strengths to serve our mate because it is a known skill for us and we are confident in our ability to deliver the service and meet the need. We genuinely feel that by serving our mate in this way we will satisfy our own need of being wanted, needed, and appreciated. The general expectation is that our mate will recognize our service and deliver a response that will confirm our need to know we matter.
Because of real practical differences in how we show love and appreciation and in our personalities and communication styles, the Servant’s ParadoxTM comes into play in two ways: Many times our mate will (1) Not “see” our intent to serve and will view our efforts as belittling or demeaning and (2) If they do “see” our intent to serve, they will respond in a manner that does not resonate positively with us. The eventual outcome is that we don’t feel appreciated and don’t meet the need to know we mattered to someone else despite all of our genuine efforts to serve.
With this clear disconnect, frustration eventual sets in. We start to resent those qualities in our mate that we originally intended to use our strengths to serve and help. We quit serving, contempt sets in soon after, and we start talking about “irreconcilable differences” as grounds for a break-up.
The cycle continues as we find another mate with the same gaps as our first and we faithful try again to serve with a known strength of our own. In addition, even if we endure this disconnect with our mate, the age-old challenge of balancing effort between work and family, the Servant’s Paradox has a tendency to shift the balance over to work instead of our mate when the need to know we matter is felt greater in the workplace than on the home front.
As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, below are a few steps to take in addressing the Servant’s Paradox and maintaining the effort to serve:
- Acknowledge the reality that we all have a need to know we matter to someone.
- Appreciate the fact that each of us genuinely serves with our strengths to meet the needs of our mate.
- Be intentional about understanding the different ways our mate feels appreciated in their commitment to serve.
- Act on the understanding to deliver in a manner that resonates with our mate to meet the need to know they matter in our lives.
- Keep serving. Serving others is the timeless, universal principle that will not disappoint in the long run. It is the long run that matters.
As we continue to serve and work to effectively recognize the service of others, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® for us to sustain our efforts to serve others and we stand a great chance to meet our need to know we matter.