The Role of Love in Service
What’s love got to do with it?
Well, I would argue that it has everything to do with it. What is service without the energy of love…really? What lead you here in the first place? You might recall feeling a sense of being called to contribute – to connect – to help – to make a difference. At the root of that calling is a love of humankind on some level. That’s my opinion.
Sucking the Life and Love out of it!
Then, we enter into academic training and professional development and we learn more and more about professional boundaries and roles. We learn that it is important to be sure that we maintain professionalism in our helping relationships. We talk about not becoming overly involved – about not blurring the lines. And ultimately, we may conclude that there is such a thing as caring too much and that we absolutely cannot go there.
In reality, we are all human beings. And all human beings have the desire for connection and relationship. We crave a feeling of intimacy with others. In fact, many helping relationships you might find yourself in lead directly to the exploration of the deepest thoughts and feelings that exist at the very core of who we are. How can that not be intimate?
In an attempt to not cross lines or muddy the water, we learn to withhold certain parts of ourselves which can translate into a withholding of love and care for others – and ultimately ourselves.
Love is an Energy
We come to believe that it is okay to care for the people we work with but it’s not okay to feel love for them. Why? What is it about love that scares us so much? Do we feel vulnerable when we love? Maybe? But is it also possible to experience great strength – unfathomable courage – extreme lightness of spirit when we are fueled by love? Vulnerability can be scary – and it is the place of our greatest power – it is the place where we gain access to our truest strength.
Let’s clarify here. When I say “love” – what do you think of? Is it connected to certain types of relationships? Is it reserved only for our families and closest friends? Does love have only one action and one expression?
Yes, I love you but not like that. Not like what? Let’s not get confused with the energy of love and the various forms of love that we can feel and express.
We can take a moment to dissect the term intimacy as well. Intimacy is not about sex. It can be connected for sure, but they are not one in the same. I’m sure most of you can relate to having sexual relationships that had nothing to do with intimacy and alternately having intimate relationships that had nothing to do with sex. Right?
I heard a definition of intimacy many years ago that has stuck with me. I believe I first heard it from bestselling author, Iyanla Vanzant and it goes something like this.
Intimacy – In-To-Me-See
I love it! Intimacy in this context becomes an invitation to be seen and a willingness to see more deeply into the soul of another – to look deeper – to be curious about the experience of another.
Intimate Helping Relationships
Within helping relationships, as the professional involved, we must cultivate a desire to see more deeply into others. We may not open ourselves in the same way in that the context of the relationship is focused upon the needs of the person who is seeking service. However, the professional can allow for intimacy in helping relationships through honouring the potential for it. Professionals can create a safe space for the expression of intimate connection. And they can share of themselves in transparent ways conducive to the purpose of the relationship.
Sharing observations with gentle honesty, transcending judgements that might arise, holding the vision of another’s wholeness and capabilities even when personal doubts might interfere, and being with another in full presence and engagement are all expressions of intimacy.
Consider that you may provide service to people who have limited access to relationships that allow for intimate connection. The helping relationship is one place that can offer this kind of connection.
I am not suggesting that we enter into dual relationships or engage in certain acts that cloud the purpose of the helping relationship. That in fact, would not be an expression of love.
However, it is important to be aware of those helping relationships that might affect you in deeper and more intimate ways – in a more personal way. Allowing for the awareness of the potential for this to occur actually keeps you in a place of loving kindness. Owning what you may feel about another does not involve making yourself wrong – it simply creates a space for honest personal reflection – which will lead you to making the choices required to ensure that the professional relationship can continue in ways that are healthy for all involved.
Love in the context of service is about universal love. It is about expressing yourself to another from a place of loving kindness and allowing your actions to be guided from this source.
Always remember to include yourself in this equation. Love as a universal force becomes fuel for our interactions with others and our ability to care for them no matter what the external circumstances.
To this end, your ability to love yourself is a crucial element. A professional who has a keen sense of who they are and a deep well of self-respect will be better prepared to offer themselves more fully and intimately as a source of support and service to others.
Practice being there for yourself as an expression of self-love. Bear witness to your internal processes – your feelings – your thoughts – your ideas – your struggles – and your triumphs. Honour yourself with time and attention. Give yourself what you need AND what you want in healthy self-affirming ways. Put yourself first in your life.
Extending the energy of love to yourself as a starting point will equip you well for extending love to others. And our world needs it.
Let’s get started!
What do you think about the role of love in the helping professions?
Sign up to our members’ area for immediate access to free resources!