We were talking about service at church and I shared my story about learning how to serve without doing it co-dependently. As my therapist had always told me, you have to give from a place of love, not from a place of lack. But I didn't know how to do that at first, initially I served others, beginning with my family as a child, out of fear and guilt, then because I had to as a responsibility. I had read this in the book Choices by Melody Beattie:
There's a way to give and be of service that's healthy. And there's a way to give that doesn't work as well. I had to back-off from giving for awhile. I had to learn the difference between giving as a reaction and giving as an action. I had to learn to take care of and give to myself too.
I knew there was a right way to give and to serve, but I wasn't really sure how to do that. I had been doing it the same way for over 40 years, so this was all new to me. Isn't it interesting how service is such a crucial part of any 12 step recovery program, except Co-dependents Anonymous. In fact, this is what Melody Beattie had to say in her book Codependents' Guide To The Twelve Steps about it:
A general consensus among those recovering from codepencency is that Twelve Step groups for codependency recovery are naturally less service-oriented than Twelve Step groups for other addictions. That is because for many of us, too much service to others and not enough self-care is part of what has harmed us in the past--harmed us and not helped others.
Many of us feel a need to back off from helping others for a while, as part of our recoveries. While our goal in recovery is to become healthy givers--giving from a sense of high self-esteem, giving because we want to, giving in a manner that is not overextended, compulsive, or guilt-ridden--we may need to go to the extreme of not giving for a while in order to find that balance and to be able to discern healthy giving and caring.
We will know how and when it is time to being giving again. By paying attention to ourselves, we will learn healthy ways of carrying the message.
Learning to give and serve the right way begins with looking inward as taught in the movie Ramen Girl by this particular line:
Sometimes too much technical training can get in the way. You cook with your head. Understand? Your head is full of noise. You must learn to cook from the quieter place deep inside of you. Each bowl of ramen that you prepare is a gift to your customer. The food that you serve your customer becomes a part of them. It contains your spirit. That's why your ramen must be an expression of pure love. A gift from your heart. Do you understand? Begin by putting your tears into your broth.
Giving and serving comes from love and emotions not from have-to's and should's. I finally felt it when I got a new Visiting Teaching assignment for someone that I truly love. I realized I could serve her easily because I love her and that those that I don't love yet, I can serve with the spirit of love. So what did I learn after 40 plus years? Doing for yourself and for others is plain and simple - love!