Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Awkwardness of Service

I have noticed that any time you want to improve something in the Church, or notice a lack, most people immediately answer with, "forget yourself and serve."

That is all well and good, if your service is wanted. But I find it's mostly not. And when you try to serve and are rejected, it leaves you more discouraged and more disconnected from the Church than ever.

So what do you do when what you have to offer in service isn't wanted?


  1. Can you be a bit more specific?

  2. This is fairly common, in all organizations. For me, if I want to "improve" something it can be difficult to understand why others aren't supportive of the idea.

    Of course, if I'm doing more work that almost always means more work for other people as well.

    My general recommendation when you get into this kind of situation is find something else in which to spend your efforts. While you're doing that find ways of building support for the other thing you want to do.

  3. Specific? Oh, anything. There isn't a specific case here. Just that what I am good at, what I have to offer, are the last places in the ward they would call me to serve.

    I get called doing things that hold no challenge, no interest, things that anyone could do just as well or better. Which is fine SOMEtimes, after all, someone has to do it, but when that's ALL, it gets really old. Especially when you know they are doing it to keep you in a "safe" calling where you can't hurt anything.

  4. Bohdan—That would be a great idea, if I had something specific. But really, I just want to be doing something where I can feel like I'm contributing value. I just got to thinking about it and wondering. I think maybe the best solution is to just let it go.

    Like almost everything in life, no?

  5. A great practice is to treasure things up in your heart, and then to focus on what the Lord has called you to do. When he needs your service elsewhere, then he will call you there in his due time (yes even through imperfect leaders because that is what all of us are). The church is one of order, and the Lord works with our imperfections through the proper channels.

    Also, why are you serving? Out of love? Out of sense of duty? Or out of a personal need to provide value to others? You are of infinite worth just because you are you. So, just serve out of love, and you will know what to do when your offered service is rejected.

  6. I think "forget yourself and serve" can be very powerful, but it doesn't need to necessarily be followed with "in the church." Maybe find opportunities outside of church where you can serve.

  7. That is a great question, bbcoy. If I'm being honest with myself, I would say that I want to serve first out of a personal desire to be valuable. Second is out of duty. I have a very hard time serving others out of love. It's something I've been trying to achieve for some time. While I can easily sit back and feel love for others, most of the time I find myself more resentful than loving. Yet, I want to have the desire to serve out of love.

    TopHat—Where I live, the two often seem analogous. Though I have tried to find ways to serve outside of the Church, everywhere I have looked, they typically want a time commitment that I can't give with my schedule.

  8. I haven't always had that response to that concern. Usually I have had the service response when I've felt I've been missing something or my needs are not met. And the value of service (so the line goes) is that it allows me to forget myself.

    Hard to do if the service isn't wanted. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I don't have to go far beyond the walls of my home to find ready opportunities to serve others. Or I can turn to my home teaching families. Or I can invite a friend to lunch. Or I can call someone I didn't see at church over the weekend and check in.

    You're right: it's not always easy to find a way to serve. And for me, the worst way is to ask, "What can I do?" (I hate getting that question because I convince myself the person can't do what I'd like to say.)

    And if one is already feeling a little queasy spiritually, being rejected while trying to serve can certainly make it worse.

  9. I think you are looking for ways that you want to serve and perhaps not seeing ways that the lord can provide for your to serve.
    1. Try praying for opportunities.
    2. Think small, one time things.
    3. Look for what could benefit the recipient rather than what would benefit you.
    I don't want to harp on the "forget yourself" part of it, but based on what you said it sounds like you are missing that element of it.
    What is most important is to not overwhelm yourself with losing yourself in service. Praying for direction can help you pinpoint what service is worth the sacrifice and what service you need to turn down.
    I am sure you can come up with some new, different ways to serve that will end up blessing your life.

  10. Paul—Thank you, that was a large part of my point.

    DStephens—I was trying to speak to the quick answer of "forget yourself and serve" that is so often given to people who are feeling separate from the Church. I didn't have a specific incident for myself in mind.

    For one thing, the "forget yourself and work (not serve)" was specific advice given to a young Elder Hinckley when he was complaining about not feeling as if he was an effective missionary.

    "Forget yourself and serve" was advice the Prophet later gave to people who are embroiled in their own lives without thought to others.

    For someone who is already seeking to be a part of the Church, and has had their efforts fail, giving the advice of "forget yourself and serve" is pouring salt in wounds that are already painful. "Forget yourself" is not a panacea. And when you give that advice at the wrong time to the wrong person, you are essentially slapping them across the face and saying, "You're right, you don't matter, so get out there and work for us."

    The other problem is when you do all the things you've laid out in your formula, feel inspired to offer some kind of service, so you reach out of your comfort zone to offer it, and then are rejected. Again and again and again. Your advice would be useful if a person wasn't already doing those things, but it is not useful in the type of situation I am discussing. (Which by the way, was inspired from observing another person's efforts, not my own. I just noticed some parallels to my own experiences and drew on those.)


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