The distinction between self sacrifice and true service

The distinction between self sacrifice and true service

Do you have a history of ‘helper syndrome’? I am using this term to replace more graphic but less palatable terms, like sacrificial lamb, martyr, saint or rescuer.

As I see it, the roots of this syndrome are a mixture of nature and nurture.

Some of us learned to get praise, attention and feelings of significance through being helpful and useful in environments where saying no carried negative consequences that we feared.

Fast forward to adult life and we discover that we are no longer rewarded with gold stars.

Instead, ‘Helper Syndrome’ leads to:

  • Being used by others, causing the sufferer to feel valued for the wrong things, misunderstood and underappreciated.
  • Experiences of invalidation from others, if they wanted attention or approval but, not advice or solutions.
  • Frustration, overload, overwhelm and even burnout
  • Lack of clarity about who and what we are designed to serve


At some point in my journey as a chronic sufferer, I began to appreciate the fine difference between self-sacrifice and service. Apparently, due my Pisces sun (the self sacrificing part) and my Virgo ascendant (the service part), I’m wired to learn the difference, including the shadow and the light of such qualities.

While there is a time and a place for self sacrifice in the transformative crucible of spiritual practice, success in the so-called real world requires us to be clear with our boundaries and personal limitations. This puts us in the realm of service.

Self-sacrifice is a problem in the real world, other than in special circumstances, such as emergencies or after giving birth to a baby. However, in those special circumstances we are given the resources we need through raised hormone levels, irrespective of nature and nurture considerations.

The transformation of self-sacrifice to service requires self-awareness, including conscious direction of energies through committing only to whom and to what we feel genuinely called, and designed, to serve.

Over the last couple of years, I have gained enormous clarity around who and what I am best suited to serve, as a result of my journey with a process called Tribal Marketing.

But, just a few years ago, I was beyond confused about what I should be offering – and to whom. I trained as an Independent Funeral and Wedding Celebrant, planning to leave the coaching and training worlds altogether.

I liked the work but knew that it needed to be a ‘side’ rather than the ‘main’ of my offering. I returned to coaching and transformed my business.

Are you as stuck as I was a few years ago?  Click here to learn more about Tribal Marketing.

Reviewing an ‘old chestnut’. Are spiritual services supposed to be free?

Reviewing an ‘old chestnut’. Are spiritual services supposed to be free?

True story.

‘But neither Jesus nor the Buddha charged’ he said. ‘Spiritual services are supposed to be free and available to all.’

Probably I should have deleted the email. But, I couldn’t resist informing him that comparing me to Jesus or the Buddha, while flattering, was entirely inappropriate!

This exchange dates back some 10 years. But the ‘thorn’ of money, related to services perceived to be ‘spiritual’, persists. Unexamined beliefs are a fruitful area for spiritual growth. It could be argued that contemplating what constitutes a healthy, non reactive relationship with money is a spiritual path in its own right. 

This month, as I was contemplating my newsletter topic, I had an experience that made me feel a little defensive about my charging practices. Defensiveness indicates resistance indicates a hidden belief. So, I took a look at whether a part of me was triggered by the ‘old chestnut’ of spirituality and money.

I took leaflets for my spring qigong classes into my local library to ask if I could post on a notice board displaying local services.

The answer I received was, ‘Only if the classes are free.’

I was taken aback. The fact is that I’d be very happy to run a free of charge qigong class as a contribution to the community, provided local services and businesses could help with free room hire and free printing of leaflets.

But, the Museum, which is next door to the Library, is charging me £25 per hour to hire the room where I hold my class. And the printing shop, opposite, is charging me full price for my leaflets.

I accepted the library’s refusal and I also decided that my charges were perfectly reasonable given my costs.

But, I wonder: Do we have illogical expectations in society with regard to what can be available free of charge, at least when practitioners must cover their own costs? Do we really not expect teachers that have invested money in their training to value their own skill and time?

Personally, I would love to see all highly trained professionals be valued for their services, ‘spiritual’ or not. Surely, this ‘old chestnut’ belongs to a former age and time. Or, maybe it has relevance in ashrams and monasteries where the advisers are supported by an institution.

These days I have a much clearer stance than I used to. Today I would suggest to the man that made the Jesus and the Buddha comment that he may be confusing ‘spiritual’ services with spiritual wisdom. 

It is true is that spiritual wisdom is free and available to all. Of course, a person must be able to access it. 

When a person wishes to consult a mentor, coach, healer or therapist for services that may enhance their spiritual development, while resolving their worldly problems, money simplifies what can be complex sequences of exchange.

The gentleman concerned learned of my existence through finding my website. I pay money for the hosting and development of my site. We can be certain that neither Jesus nor the Buddha did!

I’m all for the healing of the spiritual/material split. What is considered to be material, including money, is simply energy in form.

As scientist Nassim Haramein says – spiritual is the label we give to those things that science has not yet proven.

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