Good morning, Gentle Reader.  On the 11th of January I invited you to reflect upon and perhaps write a response to two questions.  I also invited you to send me your written responses.  I have not received any written responses.  So, this morning, I have decided to offer you some of my responses to these two questions: ‘When is Serving potentially immoral?’ ‘When is Serving immoral?’

I will use Greenleaf’s ‘Best Test for the Servant’ and his ‘Credo’ as my guides.

I will begin with Greenleaf’s ‘Best Test’ [for the Servant]: Do those being served grow as persons: do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?  And what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will she or he benefit, or, at least, not be further deprived?  No one will knowingly be hurt by the action, directly or indirectly.

Consider, Gentle Reader, that ‘Serving becomes Immoral’ when I choose to serve – and then serve – in ways that directly hinder, block or deplete the other’s health.  I am thinking of the other’s physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual (or spirit) health.  The ‘one serving’ is an individual AND is any organized group of two or more folks who are serving the other(s).

I am, for example, partnering with the leader of a health-care system.  He is developing a wellness program for all of the employees.  He discerned that although the system was effective in helping the ‘patient’ and the ‘patient’s family’ – serving them so they could become healthier – that the system was harming (think: burning out, for example) the employees.  When a system contributes to burning folks out each of these four dimensions is being burned out.  There is also a fifth dimension that is burning out: Relationships.  He is discovering that there are cultural norms and values that contribute to employees burning out.  If ‘wellness’ is to become the ‘norm’ and ‘value’ then aspects of the culture must change.

Consider, Gentle Reader, that perhaps the greatest gift we can give is to serve so that the one being served – and the one serving – becomes healthier.

Consider also that the serving-person acts immorally when he or she serves in a way that results in his or her becoming a ‘martyr.’  Being a martyr is engaging in a ‘sin’ of hubris (the greatest sin of Pride).  This is not a simple concept for we know that there are martyrs who serve so that the other(s) grow as persons (think: spiritual growth, for example).

Consider, Gentle Reader, that my serving also becomes immoral when ‘I’ (remember the ‘I’ can be a person or can be any organized group of two or more persons) directly hinder or block the one being served from becoming wiser (think: keeping a person dependent upon you – some therapists do this with their clients and some parents do this with their children) or freer or more autonomous (again, some parents do this or some ‘authority figures’ do this – there are many ways that a person can become a ‘slave’ to an authority figure).

As is his wont, Greenleaf ups the ante by bringing the ‘least privileged in society’ into the test.  Serving becomes immoral when ‘I’ consciously choose to deprive them or deprive them further.  Consider this: It is possible, today, in our Country to provide adequate health care for everyone and, as a Country, we choose not to do so.

I have additional responses to Greenleaf’s ‘Best Test’ but these will have to suffice for now.  Next time, I will respond to ‘When is Serving immoral?’ with a focus on Greenleaf’s ‘Credo.’

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