It is said all the time — how important it is to take care of others. From taking care of a sibling to helping the homeless on the street; it seems as though society constantly wants to reiterate how important it is to be concerned about the well being of other individuals.
However, why is that so important? It clearly helps the person in need, however, what does the person who is trying to help gain from the interaction? How does serving others make a difference in the individuals life? For the answer is quite simple, when someone notices, decides to act or make a difference in a small way, a step is taken to change the world.
Volunteering is important because it contributes to the greater good, it acts as a guide to leading a better Christian life and it helps an individual find purpose and meaning.
Too often people approach situations asking what is in it for them. By nature, humans are self-centred and self-absorbed.
So when it comes time to define what people really want — what they love, it gets twisted. It is not about the money, praise, recognition or even happiness. It is really about contribution. It is important to understand that everyone has something to contribute because once this realization is made, the greater good is benefited.
To further prove this, one can examine the article that the Harvard Business Review recently published; an article that states people should forget about traditional passion and happiness, to put more focus on one’s potential to make big things happen.
The most notable quote of the article reads, “·Happiness comes from the intersection of what you love, what you’re good at, and what the world needs.
We’ve been told time and again to keep finding the first. Our schools helped developed the second. It’s time we put more thought on the third (Segovia Oliver).” Which is basically stating that it is no longer about the self, but your role as a contributor.
For people who work on helping the biggest problems are compensated in the greatest ways; not financially but virtuously. Your attention is shifted from what you want, to what others need and even more so. As a result, individuals become less self-absorbed. They stop dwelling.
As ironic as it is, people tend to be happier once they stop trying to find what makes them happy (The Greater Good). People should pursue their efforts not for the pursuit of their own happiness, but by the happiness they bring when helping and contributing to those around.
Many people are under the misconception that being called by God is something only missionaries, nuns and other church leaders are called to. However, the Bible says that everyone is called to serve God through the helping of others. In fact one of the vocations in leading a Christian life is the call to serve others. For God granted his people with gifts to use in the service of others, therefore, every single person has something to contribute; even as one of the last lessons Jesus gives he iterates that point.
In his final days, he washes the feet of his disciples and as he does so he says, “And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet (14).” Through this statement one gathers the most important lesson Jesus had taught, that just as he had done so much for them, that they are saved and for that they must serve.
Which is just as useful now as it was then, because how many times do you find yourself looking at something and think about what you will gain out of it rather than what it is that you can do to help? For Jesus had died on the cross for the sins of humanity, had his blood spilled so that his people could live a life called to help those in need.
However, make no mistake, purely serving others does not save someone from salvation, it rather acts as a prompt to serve others (The Life). One is not saved by serving, but saved for serving. For the reality is that God is far more interested in the reason you serve others, rather than how well you are able to do so, and it is that gratitude from God that one receives by following such that leads to the better Christian life.
The belief that helping others is a part of a purposeful life has been around for thousands of years. One of the most influential philosophers, Aristotle, even writes that finding fulfillment and happiness is achieved by “loving rather than being loved”.
However, it is important to note that there is a distinguishment between happiness and meaning; hedonic well being is a sense of happiness while eudaimonic well being is a sense of meaning and purpose. So even though they lap significantly, researchers do suspect that helping others is especially crucial to developing a sense of meaning. Even proving such a theory by conducting a study at Florida State University to test the difference between the two.
In a survey of over 300 participants, researchers looked for behaviour and traits related to happiness and then related to meaning. Come find out that having strong social relationships led to both, but helping others in need and presenting oneself as a giver in a relationship, only related to meaning; which although is different for everyone, it always points to one factor: developing high-quality relationships with others.
However, does behaving in such a kind and giving way actually cause an individual’s life to hold more meaning? While it may seem instinctual to agree, it is plausible to accept many reasons for why this is true. Maybe it is because those who feel like they lead a more meaningful life are more motivated to help those in need or maybe it is for religious reasons that call you to do so.
According to a recent article published in The Journal of Positive Psychology, that sought to further examine the relationship. Over 400 hundred participants were asked how frequently they engaged in volunteer work, selfless behaviour and how meaningful their life feels.
As a result, those participants who engaged in more altruistic work reported a greater sense of meaning and purpose (Can Helping Others…). It can be gathered that engaging in these acts bring fulfillment for the sole reason that it improves relationships with others, which is why volunteering and helping those in need is so critical to one’s well being.
In short, volunteering is the most important pursuit of an individual’s life. For it helps contribute to the greater good, it helps lead a life closer with God and it helps find meaning in one’s life. Although it is ridiculous to believe that one small action will change the whole world, a little part will indeed change and it is that small part that you should hold the standard of your life to.
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