The Selfish Act of Selfless Service


Do you believe in karma?

Service to Others is Like Spiritual Bodybuilding

There have been so many discussions on the topic of service. It’s a critical tenet of our doctrine: To treat others as we would like to be treated, to focus on others rather than ourselves, to extend the hand of compassion and love as Christ would have done.

spiritual cookies

I’ll admit: I’m in it for myself. Serving those in my community through service projects, donations, or simply running errands for my roommates gives me a thrill I can’t get anywhere else. Service is, I assume, the LDS equivalent of hard drugs. (or, like, chocolate or something.)

“When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” -Mosiah 2:17

“Those who are hardest to love need it most.” This is a somewhat famous quote from Socrates that comes across as somewhat chastising. We’re all guilty of the seemingly innocuous crime of pretending not to receive the text from the obnoxious neighbor asking you to “make sure your kids stay out of my backyard, for the last time, Karen, I’ll call the police!” or conveniently “forget” to invite said neighbor to your ward barbecue. But this habit is far from harmless.

As with all valuable life lessons, this one comes from my mother. An older woman, a non-member living alone, moved into my parents’ ward. My mom quickly befriended her… only to find that she wasn’t exactly a ray of sunshine. This woman was the most obnoxious, cranky, uncooperative witch we’d ever met. Spending time with her was like a root canal, a tetanus shot, and a kidney stone rolled into one insufferable woman.

She was a porcupine… in porcupine clothing.

Still, my indefatigable mother continually reached out to the neighbor with endless patience and compassion. She received nothing in return but scorn, contempt and unreasonable demands. But my mother continued to march to her house day after day with a smile. Any mere mortal would have written the neighbor off as a lost cause. How, then, did my mother manage to show the best example of Christlike love I’ve ever seen?

Beats me. My only goal in life is to be a tenth of the woman my mother is. She handles the responsibilities of being the Stake Relief Society President, does all the handyman jobs around the house, takes care of my ridiculous brother, and single-handedly prepared the house and family for a big move. From watching my mother continually serve others, I’ve realized that her strength comes from putting Christ first in her life, and everything else falls into place afterward.

Acts of selfless service are performed daily by countless members of the Church. There are many which are freely given, with no fanfare or boasting, but rather through quiet love and tender care. -President Thomas S. Monson, 2009

In the April 2017 Women’s session of conference, Linda K. Burton shared the amazing story of a woman diagnosed with leukemia

Even at the worst of moments, when she could hardly speak and was unable to take care of herself, she would discuss with her husband the ways she could serve her neighbors within her meager capacity. According to the story, she sent messages to people who needed support and encouragement, invited sisters to visit, and continued to share Christlike love.

Sharing kindness

It would have been perfectly understandable, even expected, for this woman to be thinking only of herself. Even though she could barely walk, she focused outward and served her ward members as best she could. The blessings of service allowed this woman to overcome her pain and miraculously recover from her illness.

As we extend our hands and hearts toward others in Christlike love, something wonderful happens to us. Our own spirits become healed, more refined, and stronger. We become happier, more peaceful, and more receptive to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. -Dieter F. Uchtdorf, 2010

In this modern era, we are blessed with more opportunities than ever to reach out to our fellow men with love and compassion. There are many LDS-based websites dedicated to helping members serve their communities and the world, such as LDS Charities and Imagine the good we could do if every one of us just took five minutes to reach out to our neighbors.

And wouldn’t it feel so good?