There’s a natural assumption that suggests that those that serve others are selfless in their intentions. It’s not an unfair assumption either, because the visible actions of people lead us to judge the way we wish we would be judged under similar circumstances. It’s that age old wisdom of seeing our faults in others. But age old wisdom is not always true. Sometimes, pervasive ignorance can easily be mistaken for collective wisdom.
Selfless, as a concept, I find to be highly problematic. The hidden motivations of what we want to feel or gain hardly ever makes a selfless endeavour a truly selfless one. However, in the absence of a more noble approach to life, I guess we should be grateful for the fact that the selfish needs we have to feel good, benevolent, or appreciated, results in good for others. Personally, that is as close to selfless as I am willing to assume anyone is capable of being.
But there is a more sinister seeming selflessness that contaminates rather than enriches the lives of others, including the life of the one that is subservient. To live a life focused on serving others is only meritorious if that is grounded in a conviction of upliftment. It is not so commendable when we find that it is the result of a deep self-loathing. So deep is such self-rejection that we define our worth by the acceptance of our contribution to others. Those that find themselves lacking in their personal space find it easier to sacrifice their own needs in favour of acceptance or validation by those around them.
I’ve had many relationships, or more accurately, feigned friendships dissolve into nothing the moment my demands of them to be true to their convictions surpassed their belief in themselves. Holding on to the demons of the past that so effectively defined their space in society created a comfort zone that almost cast their self-image in stone. Shattering that image threatened to shatter their being, and thus it became easier for them to surrender the friendship, rather than to surrender the weakness they had no reason to believe they were capable of overcoming.
Success, within this context, can be paralytic. It’s like the intense fear we feel when our lives are threatened, and we find ourselves caught between helplessness and wanting to flee, but knowing that neither state is helpful, so we remain paralysed with fear wishing away the circumstance until it eventually passes. When it finally does pass, we convince ourselves that prayers made it so, because that’s the only remnant of dignity we have to hold on to in the face of our impotence in that moment. There are many whose perpetual state is reflected in this way.
Pandering to authority because that is where we believe our next paycheck comes from erodes our dignity more than anything else. Collective subservience like this is commonplace. People that pretend that it’s perfectly acceptable to have one moral code in their personal space and different moral code in their public space will rarely amount to anything more than a placeholder in people’s lives. Pawns are the sacrificial lambs needed to achieve someone else’s goals. Strangely though, pawns used in such a fashion feel proud to have been used in a such a way, while the reality of being used completely escapes them.
Not every servant is dedicating their life to servitude. Many of them simply do not have the courage to believe that they have more value to offer this world than to simply serve the whims and dictates of others. Demand that they own their lives and you’ll see a viciousness in them that you never thought possible from a placid servant. Fear yields the fiercest cowards in all of us. We’re selective about when we expose that rage, because it only ever makes sense to expose it to those that we despise or consider to be equal to or lower than ourselves, but rarely (if ever) will we expose such rage to the ones we worship for vaildation or acceptance.
Self-serving subservience is destructive to the human spirit because it creates comfort for the cowards when such subservience is celebrated as humility or servitude to others. Worse still, it becomes ever more toxic when classes of superiority are defined through subscription to these ranks, resulting in society believing the victim to be oppressed, and the one with conviction to be the oppressor.
Reality is a twisted view of a wholesome life. Somewhere in there lies the secret to sanity.