Why Live a Life of Selfless Courage?

April 29, 2020 / Posted in

Why should anyone want to live a life of selfless courage and service to others – above self?  It is a fair question.

There are a number of ways to respond to this sort of question. Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner put it this way: “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

In the book Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam M. Grant, we learn that there are distinct social interaction types associated with being a taker, a matcher and a giver. We can be any of these, none and all of them depending upon whom we are interacting with.

Evidence shows us that most people have a primary style with which they approach their professional interactions – this style can play as much a part in their success as talent, hard work and luck.

While it seems counter-intuitive, studies show that over long time periods individuals which are identified as givers show up on the top and bottom of the performance scales.

Giving; the act of putting someone else’s interest ahead of your own, can be empowering and successful.

Grant had this to say, “This is what I find most magnetic about successful givers: they get to the top without cutting others down, finding ways of expanding the pie that benefit themselves and the people around them. Whereas success is zero-sum in a group of takers, in groups of givers, it may be true that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”

Paying it forward, giving, investing in the future – a life of selfless courage, devoted to others and the greater good isn’t a popular idea, or one that you’ll see promoted typically. It seems so out of phase with the media messages of self-centric thinking and ego.

The rewards of contributing to the greater good aren’t always immediate, and they aren’t always tangible. And yet the payoff is greater than most imagine.

I think the answer is probably best expressed by Jim Collins in the conclusion to his book, Good to Great:

In the end it is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life.  And it is difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work.  Perhaps then you might gain that rare tranquility that comes from knowing that you’ve had a hand in creating something of intrinsic excellence that makes a contribution.  Indeed, you might even gain that deepest of all satisfactions; knowing that in your short time on earth has been well spent and that it mattered.

I suspect that all of us desire to live a life that has made a difference, not a life plated in silver and gold, fame and fortune, homes and cars, and other such stuff. Rather we desire to live a life that leaves in its wake others who do the same: embrace that call to lead, inspire, and serve others who serve as beacons of hope and the promise of a better future.

A life of significance.

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