Why do we serve others? Is it because we expect something (usually monetary) in return? Is it because of some religious or philosophical conviction? Or is it simply because serving others makes us feel good?

For most of us, the reasons we serve others are probably some combination of the above, weighted differently depending on the people involved and the circumstances. Some serve only out of a blatant desire to get something in return. They ascribe to the “What’s in it for me?” school of thought (which is certainly not the most noble of approaches). Others serve because their code of conduct compels them, or because they like the emotional bounce they get from doing so.

The way I see it, we should serve is because it’s a way for us to HONOR others while we honor ourselves and the kinds of people we strive to be. Serving others not only helps the greater good, it helps us become better people—people who don’t worry about “what’s in it for me;” people who serve others because it’s simply the right thing to do.

You might think “serving others” applies only to doing good deeds, such as driving an elder relative to the store for groceries, mowing a neighbor’s lawn, donating to charity, etc. But there’s more to it than that. I believe we also serve when we HONOR others by making them feel wanted, important, and significant to us—and this can apply to friends, family, employees, or even complete strangers.

How can we honor others?

  • By expressing genuine interest in their emotional and physical needs.
  • By showing genuine appreciation for them and what they mean to us.
  • By acknowledging their accomplishments.
  • By demonstrating sincere admiration for who they are as people.
  • By showing proper respect.

Now, you might be thinking Paul’s been listening too much to the monkey chatter, that he’s off on some personal tangent, unrelated to the “business of business.”

Not so fast.

When it comes to serving others, I challenge you NOT to compartmentalize your business life and your personal life. To illustrate, let me paraphrase a line from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol: “People are my business, and if they aren’t, they should be!” In other words, if you are not honoring people when you engage in business activities, just as you do in your personal life, how can you possibly serve your customers, prospects, or employees to the best of your abilities? After all, without honor in your business dealings, how can you possibly provide excellent products, exceptional service, or foster the kinds of work environments necessary for success? You can’t . . . and you won’t.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • How can I honor my friends and family?
  • How can I honor my employees?
  • How can I honor my customers?
  • How can I honor complete strangers?
  • How can I honor myself?

One answer is readily apparent and has encompassed virtually every religious, moral, and ethical consideration for thousands of years. In this season of service and reflection, let’s keep the Golden Rule alive and truly “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”