Serving vs. Being a Servant {Which one are you?}

My Heart Is Hers

In your relationship with your children…

Your relationship with your partner…

Even your work or contribution to the world

In your life, are you serving or are you being a servant?

There is a very distinct difference between the two.

The Servant

Picture the classical version of a servant; a person in servitude to another, who does their calling or bidding.

There may be little to no boundaries and she has little to no say in the demands made upon her. Her needs aren’t important, or as important, as the person or people she serves.

She is lower than, less than, beneath others. Her servitude is out of obligation: it’s a duty or a chore or a job, something that must be done.

The modern-day servant looks a lot like this:

You give to your loved ones, or even acquaintances, out of duty. You often feel less important than or diminished or blocked by those in your life. You also feel tired, drained, and dull. Your actions breed resentment and anger in your life, and you find yourself playing the victim role of “others don’t care about me”, “I’m taken advantage of”, and even “No one will support me in that.”

Serving

Now imagine a host; a person who has invited her most revered and beloved guests into her home.

She is honored by their presence and delights in what they bring to the table, their unique contribution to the conversation. She is generous in what she offers them and does so out of Love.

Because they are her cherished guests, she is kind, patient and considerate of them. She offers them what she has learned they most love and earnestly wants to provide for their needs. She takes in account their individual personalities and preferences to create an experience they will enjoy.

She sees everyone, including her, as exceptional and equal in their own right and this is reflected in both her actions toward them and toward herself. Because of this she feels love, has more energy, and isn’t afraid to ask for what she needs.

Behavior and Intention

The describable actions of the servant and the host might be the same:

  • Both may prepare and offer food
  • Both may clean and organize
  • Both may listen and talk
  • Both may support and help
  • Both may be in charge of important and delicate matters

But the intentions behind their actions set them apart.

One is being used. One is making a genuine, generous, loving offer.

Both are making a choice.

In your life, in your family, in your work…what choice do you most often make?

Ask yourself: Am I serving or being a servant?

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30 Comments. Leave new

big difference – thanks for fleshing that out like ya just did – i HATE feeling like a servant – anytime in my life when i have allowed myself to step into that space i find it breeds self-contempt and sorrow to no end.
on the other hand, one of my greatest joys is to have my friends over and serve them – i love, love, LOVE those times and plan on increasing them in my life in an exponential fashion :)

TheOrganicSister
May 22, 2011 6:37 pm

I feel the same way. But when I dig into that feeling and shift my perspective to “serving guests” my entire mood, thoughts, feeling and energy change. And from that the circumstances and situations change. :)

This provokes a lot of idea for me. I need to mull this over.

TheOrganicSister
May 22, 2011 6:40 pm

Awesome! I like provoking long-lasting thoughts. I hope you’ll come back and share JR. :)

Momma Jorje
May 22, 2011 7:11 pm

I used to be more of what I would call a martyr. I was comfortable being put out, so to speak. I could complain to friends, but still felt I had to do these things. It was… simply comfortable. (Yes, I realize this was a servant role and, in fact, D/s was an acknowledged part of our dynamic.)

It is so much nicer to actually be appreciated! That said, I’m finding my life is out of balance right now and it can be awkward to discuss that with a partner. But I’m so worn out in my first trimester and truly need the scales to tip in the other direction.

In better news, I am getting close to ready to dig into Chapter 3! Maybe tonight! I no longer know what exactly what I’m after (I only had ideas anyway), but I like it this way. Clean slate, let whatever comes come.

TheOrganicSister
May 23, 2011 10:09 am

Another great term for it. My good friend once said “I’m a mother, not a martyr.” Those words stick with me.

Momma Jorje
May 23, 2011 11:40 am

Indeed, there is a difference between giving of oneself out of love and just feeling used up.

LOVE IT!

Aleisha @ Whole Family Project
May 22, 2011 8:05 pm

Oh, Tara! I love this so much! Thank you. What a gift you are.

Hmmm, this is a good one to sit on! Certain relationships usually feel one way or the other, often by my own will………….

That’s me thinking up there -those dots……. ;-)

beautiful, tara. thank you.

xo

~erin

This is so perfect for were I am at right now. When I think of my roles as wife and mother of 4 lately I have been looking at through the servant lens. Thanks for helping see the error of my ways and refreshing my roles! This is my first visit here. Love your blog!

Yes, both are making a choice. Much of it is about perspective. For so long, I was the servant, and it was miserable. It is a mindset. Often, we assume others expect us to play that role or put us in that role, but the usual reality is we choose that role. If we feel like a servant, then we need to stop believing that we are one. If we believe it, we will act upon it, and it will be reflected in our attitude and how we treat others.

Now that I see myself as one who serves, it puts the ball back in my court. It is my choice to serve or not to serve, what to do or not do, how to live, and that makes all the difference. When we realize that every decision/action in our lives is a choice, it is amazing what we are capable of doing and the beauty that radiates from it.

I might add that one who is a servant may not even believe she is appreciated (when she is) or may not be appreciated because she acts like a servant, and others treat her as she acts. Whereas one who serves willingly is loved and appreciated by those who respect her. The love and appreciation isn’t demanded, but it is reciprocated.

Patti @ Jazzy Mama
May 23, 2011 9:06 am

I have really struggled with the negative core belief that “My life is supposed to be HARD.” Now I have come to understand that because of my belief about myself, I was actually CREATING a life of hardship and frustration for myself.

By changing my perspective and appreciating what I have, I have been able to discover that I ENJOY meeting the needs of my children and partner. Instead of wishing for what I don’t have, I have embraced how fortunate I really am.

Tara, your words here say exactly what REALLY IS. Freedom and Joy to YOU, Sister. <3

We’re totally on the same page. :) I came to this realization about a year ago and since then have been spending a lot of time trying to develope a serving heart. I still suck at it sometimes but it’s made A WORLD of difference!

Hmmm. I’m thinking…. but they are not guests. I’ve always looked at the family as a team. I’ve always looked at marriage as a team. I feel like we are a team. We have different jobs to do, but our goal is the same. We have a vision for our family and we work towards it. I’m glad you feel empowered by this. :)

this wasn’t supposed to be a reply to Jenna. sorry

TheOrganicSister
May 23, 2011 12:19 pm

Oh but they are guests! You’ve invited them into your life and your heart and your womb. You chose to love them and you consciously choose to continue loving them.

When we treat our closest loved ones as (we treat) our honored guests we create an environment in which generosity and unconditional love flourish in everyone.

Wow Tara, what a beautiful perspective! I will have to share this!

Yep, I did invite them into my life. You are right about this. :)

What a wonderful reminder that our actions towards others are what we internally perceive them to be. If I think of myself as a servant, who HAS to work for others, then I resent those I am serving; it is nothing more than work. But if I think of myself as serving others who are honored Guests, fellow Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve, then my heart is blessed to be a part of their journey.

Just what I need to hear right now. I’m going to go away and think about this some more and try to shift things a bit. And have a closer look here, looks intriging…

Beautiful, Tara! This has been a roadblock lately, not feeling appreciated for all I do as a mama, and feeling a bit stretched thin. But, you said it so clearly, serving those we love and not being servants are way different, and I loved your additional comment that our kids are our most honored guests, we did invite them into our lives now didn’t we? It seems I always end up here when I need to hear your words most. Thank you!

This sure hit home! I remember a time when I was serving and I felt good, but in the past few years this really clears up that I have been taking on this victim roll – I have been being a servant in whatever things I do try to do. Such an important distinction that is really eye-opening.

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Suzanne Fitzgibbons
July 8, 2011 7:12 am

I have been taking care of my mother-in-law who is a demanding person;sometimes rude and course. I have tried to make her smile and care for her health concerns in gentle, considerate ways. I often resent giving up so much time for her, because she is often cruel to me. I try to consider that this is due to her circumstance and try to swallow the hurt down. But she has always really been this way and actually not the kind of person who I would choose to spend time with if she were not family. Yet, I have an obligation..and my feelings fluctuate. I am confused with the servant role & I want to serve her unselfishly, yet I do hold this resentment, which troubles me greatly. Sometimes, I feel as though…because I am so frustrated, God is telling me to get out of there and use my real gifts which are with children. …that I have planted seeds there and she is not receptive…so move on & let God continue His Work. I feel trapped…as if I will be there the rest of my life. I am 53 & want my own life. Selfish ??

Timely post since I struggle with having guests in my home, and I have some now. I want to be open, generous, vulnerable, and at ease with them, but I struggle with their lack of initiative. I cook three meals a day for them plus clean up the dishes and there’s barely an acknowledgement of that effort. No drama, but no real connection either. I feel the resentment seethe, and I don’t want to be like this, but I hear my ugly thoughts.

Thanks for writing this. It gives me much to consider as I wrestle with the ideas of being a host, giving generously, taking care of myself, and being a non-anxious presence in this uncomfortable situation.

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