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Life is full of obligations.  There are lots of things that we have to do for others that are burdensome, unpleasant or just not fun.  That is life.  The question we have to ask ourselves is this: Will I serve with a bitter heart or a joyful heart?

To give you an example, my daughter recently graduated from high school.  She will be attending university in the fall, and admittedly, her college costs are expensive.  Now my husband and I could sit around and lament the cost of her tuition and room and board.  We could fret and complain to her about the expense.  And I’m sure lots of parents do exactly that.

But instead, we simply told her, “We are delighted to pay for you to go to college.”  Period.  No qualifications.  She has been a straight A student and a wonderful daughter, and we are happy to do what we can to get her started on the path to adulthood.  More importantly, my husband and I have decided to serve with joyful hearts.

Every time you perform an act of service, you have a choice as to how you will serve.  You can moan and complain.  Or you can serve joyfully.  The choice is yours.

When we serve with a poor attitude, it shows what kind of people we are.  Stingy, ungenerous, lazy people whine and gripe when asked to do even the smallest thing for others.  Mature people serve others quietly and happily, without kvetching.  They simply enjoy being helpful.

Of course, as human beings, we are naturally selfish.  As a result, in order to serve joyfully, we have to overcome our baser instincts.  We have to intentionally choose to serve with a joyful heart in all that we do.

Below are some ways to train your brain to be a joyful giver and a happy servant of others.  Consider applying these approaches in your own life.

Be Grateful That You Have the Ability to Serve

Joel Osteen often says in his sermons that when presented with a task, we shouldn’t complain and say, “Aww.  Now I have to do X.”  Instead, our attitude should be, “Wow!  I get to do X.”  This is a simple but powerful shift in attitude which can move us from thinking negatively to thinking positively about our obligations in life.

As a simple example, the next time you have to wash your dishes after dinner, don’t think, “Ugh.  Cleaning up after dinner is a hassle.”  Instead, consider how blessed you are.  You had food this evening for dinner.  Not everyone does.  You probably had beautiful dishes on which to eat your dinner.  Many folks in this world don’t have such luxuries.  And if you washed your dishes using running water and a dishwasher, you are well-ahead of millions of people in the world.  And after you’ve thought about all of that, you probably will say, “Wow.  I get to wash these dishes!

When you consider how blessed you are, then you will serve with a joyful heart, even when doing the most menial tasks.

Consider Your Legacy

Life is a finite thing.  None of us will live forever.  What type of impact do you want to have on the earth during this life of yours?  What do you want your legacy to be?

Obituaries are a great way to learn how people lived their lives.  That is because they are written by those who knew them best.  I always find it interesting when an obituary is terse and gives little information about the person who passed away.  That likely indicates that person did not do much to care for or inspire others.  (Or maybe their relatives were just lazy.)

Then there are those obituaries that reflect a life well-lived.  You can see from the writing that the individual positively touched those around them.  They loved, gave and cared for others with a generous spirit, and that comes shining through in the writing.

So, while you are here on this earth, love, give and serve generously and joyfully.  Love your children with reckless abandon.  Care for your parents with sensitivity.  Be gentle to animals and the earth.  If you do these things, your legacy will be a good one. (Read more about the beautiful legacy that you can leave here.)

Stop Worrying About Being Taken Advantage Of

The key to serving joyfully is to not keep score.  If every time you do something for another person, you need them to thank you or immediately reciprocate in some way, you won’t end up doing anything for anyone.

Life ebbs and flows.  Sometimes, we are in a position to be generous to others.  Sometimes, we are in need, and others are generous toward us.

For instance, when our children are young, we take care of them.  We feed them, clothe them, and chauffeur them to various activities.  We are responsible for them in almost every way.  And our efforts aren’t reciprocated at the time.  They can’t be.  They are the kids, and we are the adults.  So, we happily give to our young children without the expectation of anything in return.

Then, as our children get older, the tables turn.  With each passing year, good children help their parents more and more.  That is the natural evolution of life.  I often say that the hallmark of adulthood is when you finally stop asking your parents for stuff, and instead you say, “Mom and Dad, how can I help you?

Of course, some people never reach that point.  They just grow into large, middle-aged children who still keep running to their parents with their every little need.  But most of us make that transition.  And during the course of the parent-child relationship, no one keeps score as to who has done the most for whom.

The same is true for our friendships.  Sometimes we help our friends more, and sometimes they help us more.  For example, I have a very good friend from high school who supported me when I was getting divorced.  I frankly don’t know what I would have done without him.  During that period, I discussed my concerns with him and sought his advice regularly.  And he always lifted my spirits with a joke (or two!).

This same friend is a dad, and these days, I am able to reciprocate by offering advice whenever he has issues involving his kids.  We’ve been friends now for almost 35 years, and we don’t keep score as to who is being the most helpful.  We know that in friendship, there is a natural back and forth of support.

So, give joyfully and freely.  Don’t worry about whether you are being taken advantage of.  In the karma of life, kindness is always repaid, and in ways that we often cannot anticipate.

We each have so many responsibilities and obligations toward others.  We can view them as a burden, but why?  Instead, serve others with a joyful heart.  Give of yourself, your time and your resources freely and watch your happiness increase!


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