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by David Truman

What IS your mission on earth? If you're like most people, you want to make a positive difference to other people. You want to help. If that rings true for you, then your question isn't really, "WHAT is my purpose?" It must be: "HOW do I live my purpose?" This short article answers that question with seven words. These words represent qualities we believe will help anyone become more effective in helping others.
1. Space. Space is an interesting word with various meanings. A modern meaning of the word space is DETACHMENT. For helping, we need "space" (or detachment) from the usual agenda in life -- our own personal agenda of living primarily for ourselves.
That kind of space creates AVAILABILITY -- room for something or someone ELSE. In this "me" day and age, that may feel threatening; but clearly, to be helpful, one MUST have a purpose bigger than oneself. The live-for-number-one model is popular today, but it practically rules out being helpful! Being AVAILABLE to help depends on having a reasonably unselfish orientation.
Sometimes, people with high aspirations -- such as helping others -- don't feel well PREPARED to act on their ideals. Therefore, many of us have a great dedication to "getting straightened out FIRST" -- so that we can help others. Obviously, there IS some wisdom to that. This very article, for example, recommends cultivating seven qualities, each of which is practically indispensable for effective helping. Therefore, it makes sense that any would-be helper might take the attitude, "Physician, heal thyself," and focus on self-work -- for a while, at least -- in the effort to get straight enough to be ABLE to help others.
Nevertheless, we must all face the fact that self-work has real limits. As long as we are working primarily on ourselves, we are not primarily helping others. If carried too far, self-work becomes selfish, and no one who is too selfish can be expected to be very helpful to other people. A selfish orientation not only makes a person cowardly and lazy, but it also misdirects our efforts, and makes our contributions problematical.
The truth is, self-work is often seriously overrated as a means of self-improvement. Much of what REALLY gets people straight is letting go of self-interest concerns long enough to HEAL from the depressing effects OF self-focus. The achievement of real well-being comes from working for others LONG enough to develop some stamina, HARD enough to develop some strength, and USEFULLY enough to develop some self-confidence.
Thus, SPACE from self-focus -- along with the availability and well-being that results from it -- is a big step toward being truly helpful.
2. Action. Hoping and wanting and planning to be helpful, though well-intended, is not the same as BEING helpful. Without actually MANIFESTING our good intentions, there's a limit to how helpful we can possibly be.
Obviously, helping requires of us a true spirit of generosity and self-sacrifice. And isn't it equally obvious that we must not only be generous in spirit, but also in LIFE? BEING helpful takes time, effort, and self-sacrifice on many levels. Only the WORK of helping -- the investment of our assets, our lives, our time, and our energy in tangible ways -- allows us to make a positive difference others can FEEL. The desire and willingness to REALLY LIVE so as to benefit other people -- having that as a top priority -- turns would-be helpers into genuinely helpful people. We secure space from self-focus by developing the HABIT of service in daily life.
3. Obedience. Helping others is not only OUR mission -- it is GOD'S mission. It is God's plan that we live and grow BY helping one another; by loving and serving one another Divinely.
It is Godly to help. And no person knows how to help as well as God does. Fortunately, when it comes to the question of how to help, living inspirations -- inspirations to love, to give, to participate in helpful fashion -- are abundantly available to those who tune to the still small voice.
Most people actually DO hear the directives of the still small voice, however faintly. Many people's biggest problem is DOING what they are inspired to do. More than just desire, and more than faith, active service requires OBEDIENCE. In obedience, we move as the spirit moves, step by inspired step -- in direct, immediate cooperation with the Divine Will. "May Thy will, not mine, be done."
Obedience also relates to sensitive cooperation with other human beings -- those we are helping, and others who may be working with us in our helping mission. Many people who wish to help imagine being helpful THEIR way. The truth is, helpfulness requires flexibility. The most helpful people are those who are willing do what is needed and wanted, rather than doing what they want to do. True helpfulness is never proud or stubborn. True helpfulness requires plenty of humility, and plenty of humble work at humble occupations. Moreover, humble, obedient, cooperative work is exactly what it takes to purify our hearts of personal/egoic motivations that are, in a word, unhelpful.
4. Courage. If a truly helpful life were easy, a lot more people would be living it. Courage is required to be an effective helper, no doubt, and that makes being a really STRONG helper a relatively rare achievement. Most people really don't like difficulty, and therefore, many people will go way out of their (true and Godly) way to AVOID difficulty. Not very helpful for being helpful!
No one promised us a rose garden in the service of humanity. But then too, no one promised that ANY kind of life would be easy. No matter what kind of life we live, selfish or otherwise, there will be plenty of difficulty anyhow. But, although we can't escape difficulty, we do get to choose the KIND of difficulty we prefer to embrace -- the kind that comes from being selfish, or the kind that comes from being generous and helpful. The good part about the kind of difficulty that comes from being helpful is this: It helps you and other people. The kind of difficulty created by selfishness hurts everyone.
It takes courage to choose CONSCIOUSLY. Often, the choices made from cowardice and selfishness tend to be UNconscious. Accordingly, the results of those unconscious choices show up in our lives more or less accidentally. But the results DO show up! For example, you must have noticed how people who are extremely passive often seem to have HUGE troubles in their lives.
As you see, we're ALWAYS choosing; even apparently NOT choosing is a choice. SINCE we're always choosing, we may as well choose courageously, consciously -- and for the GOOD. As Christ said, "Either you gather with me, or you scatter asunder."
The BASIC courage helpers need is the courage to face the inevitable fact of difficulty in EVERY life. From there, it's a small step to happily choosing the KIND of difficulty that may be involved in helping others.
5. Understanding. Understanding can be SO useful. Taking interest in life, studying truthful teachings about life, about love, about the laws of the Universe, and about human nature, can all serve helpfulness admirably. But of course, true understanding is not all intellectual, not all book learning. We need to understand more than just general facts about the Universe: we must understand the unique people we're helping. For this, it is indispensable to INTERACT with others, and to inquire sincerely of them. How else can we gain some real comprehension of THEIR viewpoint? And unless we understand their viewpoint, how can we help them in ways that can make the most difference?
6. Patience. These days, we all want satisfaction NOW. We want immediate results, or forget the whole thing! When it comes to helping, such impatient attitudes are UNhelpful. Spiritual work takes time, and for the most part, people grow rather slowly. Only if we stay in it for the long haul can we expect to accomplish much.
There is kind of impatience that can be useful: the kind that does not accept the status quo; the kind that defies limits. Still, even this appropriate kind of impatience must be sparingly mixed with liberal amounts of patience, endurance, and forbearance in order to work best for helping.
As a wise man once said, "It takes infinite patience to get immediate results." That paradoxical statement makes sense if you think about it: There's something about a demanding and impatient orientation that actually PREVENTS the miracle of change from coming to fruition. Patience can be a measure of faith and dedication -- and faith and dedication INVITE miracles.
7. Commitment. You HAVE energy to give. You HAVE the ability to help. But will you commit yourself to helping in some real, practical way? Will you SETTLE ON a good way to help the world, or will you die before you decide which star to hitch your wagon to? These are important questions that all would-be helpers do well to face.
The transition into a life of HELPING -- rather than the usual life of self-service and self-survival -- results from a strong COMMITMENT to a bigger and better purpose. And needless to say, real commitment is ONGOING commitment, not just a flash in the pan, a will-o-the-wisp.
No rocket science here: reliability is helpful; flakiness is UNhelpful. Dedication gets things done; half-heartedness doesn't. Commitment is mandatory for those who want to make a positive and lasting change in others' lives.

by David Truman

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The Magnificent Seven: Seven Essential Qualities for Helpers
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