Doing Favors versus Being Of Service

Jun 3 21:00 2004 Paula Langguth Ryan Print This Article

At the end of ... Oprah Winfrey asks people “what do you know for sure?” I know exactly what I will tell her when she asks me that ... One thing I know for sure is that the grandest chan

At the end of interviews,Guest Posting Oprah Winfrey asks people “what do you know for sure?” I know exactly what I will tell her when she asks me that question. One thing I know for sure is that the grandest changes in our lives come from subtle shifts in our consciousness. Another thing I know for sure is that doing favors for people limits everyone involved, while being of service helps us expand.

Do you ever feel like someone owes you for something? I’m not just talking about money here. I’m talking about that sense we get when we do something nice for someone and have the expectation that somehow, somewhere down the road, they’re going to pay us back in some way. Even if it’s just in the form of a thank you.

When I was in Florida recently I was moved by two events that happened. At the end of the service a gentleman named Eddie got up and asked if he might whistle a song for us. He was open and receptive to stepping out of his comfort zone and he got up in front of us all (something new for him) and whistled and slapped on his thighs and got the entire congregation clapping along with him. Even the band members picked up his tune and began playing along. Then he shared with us that his family was struggling and that if anyone was moved by his song and could help in any way, anything given would be gratefully received.

Did your hackles go up? Did you feel any resistance to that request in your body anywhere? It’s a pretty common gut reaction What was interesting to me was how quickly the people present moved past that initial reaction and opened up to be of service to Eddie, to give freely to him just as he had given freely. It wasn’t just his song – it was the openness of his heart, it was the way he shared his essence with us. Instead of asking for a favor, he asked to be of service to us. And instead of doing a favor for him, others chose to be of service to him.

You could see the courage becoming more and more expressive on Eddie’s face, as he felt and received that acceptance. When he realized everyone was eager for him to be of service, he gave it his all. I was especially touched by something Eddie said, which I can only paraphrase. He stood up, one of the few black people in the room, and said “the reason God made us look different is so we would be able to practice remembering we are all one.”

This is what being of service does, too. Think about it. When you do a favor for someone you automatically set yourself apart, and often above, the other person. When you are being of service, however, you are recognizing that you are connected, that we are all one.

Later that same Sunday, I conducted a workshop. A gentleman we later dubbed “Bike Messenger Bob” saw the sign for the workshop and pedaled in to join us. Bike Messenger Bob was an enthusiastic bundle of light and joy who demonstrated being of service. When I asked for water, he jumped up, got me a glass of water. He got me a bigger glass so I wouldn’t get thirsty later, brought me a brownie, went out to the hallway and brought in a copy of my book to show to people, gave people encouragement, and at the end of the workshop he disappeared without a trace. He came solely to be of service. He didn’t do it for any acknowledgement, any reward, for anything in return.

Take some time this month to make a list of everyone you’ve done a favor for in the past few months. Write down what the favor was that you did. Then cross out the words “did a favor” and replace them with “was of service”. Notice the changes you feel about the situation and your expectations of being owed anything, or of being somehow apart from, or more than, this person.

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Paula Langguth Ryan
Paula Langguth Ryan

Paula Langguth Ryan is the author of “Bounce Back From Bankruptcy” and “Giving Thanks: The Art of Tithing.” Ryan shows people how to dissolve fear and create what they truly desire in their lives, Ryan’s clients include Olympic athletes, nationally- renowned authors and top-notch salespeople. Visit her site at for a free monthly Art of Abundance e-zine or email for a free e-book of Giving Thanks.

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