We live in a service-oriented society. We use our time, skills, and experience to serve our employers and/or clients. We use our time, skills, and experience to serve our family and friends. We use our time, skills, and experience to help strangers improve their lives or to find relief from difficult situations. Some people are even required to give service, usually as punishment for crimes or violations. What matters most is not how we serve, but why.
Opportunities to serve are all around us. Service is usually good, but our motives for why we serve aren’t always good. Here are six good, better, and best motives for offering service to help us identify the reasons we serve.
As you will notice, the motives in each subsequent category can apply to the examples in the preceding category(ies), making it ideal to always strive to have the “best” motives in all of the service we give.
The hope of material reward
This type of service is good because it helps us provide a living for our family and is often selfless. Serving with the hope of a material reward is essentially good when the service offered is good and its reward is used for good.
Most of us like to keep company with like-minded individuals, which makes getting involved in a group service project a desirable endeavor. Feeding the homeless, visiting terminally ill children, or assembling care packets for communities impacted by natural disasters are the types of service opportunities that allow us to enjoy good companionship with those who hold similar interests and values. There is, indeed, strength in numbers.
Fear of consequences
This motive helps us to realize and acknowledge that there are consequences when good people do nothing to help others or to affect the world for good. Getting involved in a good cause for fear that, if we don’t, our community will suffer is a better reason to serve.
Sense of duty
We owe a lot to our friends and families. When the need to serve them comes around, we often rise to the occasion out of a sense of duty to repay them for the good they’ve worked in our lives. This motive is selfless and is a better measure of what direction our moral compass points. Family and social traditions also instill in us a sense of duty that, when called upon, moves us to action.
Hope of a delayed reward
Offering service with no expectation of immediate reward is a purer motive for serving. This type of service is firmly planted in the “pay it forward” mentality, which generates hope that the served will be the ones who serve in the future. This motive is also based in the “what goes around, comes around”—a.k.a. “good karma”—mentality. Some even hope that service given now will be rewarded after they have passed away.
A wise man once said that charity never fails. In other words, if charity—which is the pure love of our fellow man—is at the heart of every form of service we offer, then this is the best motive for serving others.