“For years, I have bridged the gap between differing opinions, tempered my own, made sure that everyone in the room was happy and fed and taken care of. It began as a clean love for hospitality, but over the years, I think, it devolved into care-taking and people-pleasing at the expense of my own self, at the expense of telling the truth about what I think and what I need and what matters most to me.” – Shauna Niequist
Service to humanity can indeed be the best work of life. However, if we are not carful to pay attention to what we sacrifice for others, it can lead to burnout. When we think about the Jaycee Creed, you may recite it and have passion for ever single sentence. For some, it has become a mundane repetition of words in tradition. It happens. Over time we become discouraged and forget why we show up at all. We hold onto grudges, disagreements, and we feel like victims when things don’t go our way.
When I started out as a Missouri Jaycee I was young and naive. I thought I had finally found a group that was passionate about the things I was passionate about. Over time, I discovered that peoples opinions and goals don’t always align with my own. And then, I rediscovered popularity. Popularity; the thing that each of us want most in social groups. We all want to be liked and accepted. Especially when all we have faced before is rejection. So we sacrifice ourselves in order to be liked and included by the group. Little by little we start chipping away at who we are and make compromises in areas we never thought we would.
Depression can be a terrible thing, and those who suffer in silence go unnoticed. This is why it is important for every chapter in our organization to rediscover a healthy tolerance of those we disagree with, and a renewed celebration of diversity to strengthen our organization.
In reading the book ‘Present Over Perfect’ by Shauna Niequist, I learned that our lives can be driven mad by working hard to enjoy life later. The American dream has usually been about sacrificing yourself now to enjoy life later in retirement. But what Shauna points out is that we have one life given to us by our creator, and we are called to serve well, love well, and live in the moment for yourself and others equally.
As a caregiver to my parents, I made one of the worst mistakes of my life recently. I sacrificed my own happiness and welfare for the care of my loved ones. As expected, I started to die just a little bit each and every day thinking I was doing the right thing. God had to remind me that Hitler thought he was doing the right thing. How can we take care of others if we cannot take care of ourselves? These words have never been more true now in the present moment of sacrificing yourself at the alter of pleasing others.
When we come together as fellow members of a service organization, especially one as diverse as ours, we should try our best to reach out to those we disagree with, and do our best to care for ourselves before we care for others. Life can be difficult, but we are ultimately responsible for making it difficult by the choices we make and the priorities we set.
The Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament Bible teaches us that Wisdom is woven in the fabric of the universe and all who seek her are blessed with long life, but the fool who resists wisdom has only failure as his reward. Let us turn to wisdom, rather than our emotions. Let us turn to friendship, not our divisions. And let us learn to first care for ourselves before we care for others. It is only then that we can be our strongest to serve humanity.
John Paul Tomko, Chaplain
Recommended reading: ‘Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living’ by Shauna Niequist
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