**This post continues Scott's series on prevention from December.**
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A dear friend of mine was talking about some good work that she was doing. She said that she was making friends; her good works were as simple as that. When I heard her say this I thought, “That’s it!” This is what good works are all about, friendship. She serves as a friend and not a savior. She needs her new friends as much as they need her. Good works are all about making and keeping friends.
I have been around volunteers for a long time. I have seen thousands of individuals serve, and most of the them with great hearts. Every now and again you meet a volunteer who thinks their serving will help everyone. There is a need for them to be the rescuer and an important part of the process. It is a “let meserve you” mentality, having set themselves above you and expect that you learn from them. They see people in categories rather than as individuals, setting up an USand THEMway of dealing with people. There is a negative connotation that “I am less-than, because I need the service that is offered.” This is what I call the savoir mentality.
The information that those with the savior mentality have can be helpful and good. We can be humble enough to learn from them, but we don’t have to be friends with them. I’ve often heard that leaders are the loneliest people. I have a feeling that is because they serve as savior and not friend. They elevate themselves to a place where no one can reach them. They go beyond where they should, and it is lonely on a pedestal. Those of us who serve as friends know that leadership is not lonely; it is empowering and communal. I honestly feel sorry for the lonely saviors, because they have isolated themselves with their desire for position.
Friends don’t set themselves up as better than each other. They can recognize and celebrate differences in each other. We all have different gifts and can bless each other by using these gifts to serve each other. There is a humility when serving like a friend. Humility is treating someone better than you treat yourself. This is what is needed, in which we treat others better than we treat ourselves. This is the selflessness of friendship.
Friends invite, not demand. They don’t need their friend to be somewhere different, they just love their friend regardless of where they are. A friend is understanding and patient, they can recognize different seasons and offer encouragement at opportune times. Friends ask good questions that get each other to open up further and have conversations with no time limits or ulterior motive. Friends are present and willing to help when the help is needed; there is a reciprocal nature in the relationship. There are gains by both individuals in friendship.
If you serve as a friend rather than a savior, you are helping to build community. This community is needed in the healing process for all of us. A healthy community has leaders who serve with the friendship mentality in which the leaders don’t put themselves up on a pedestal. Rather, they come and be amongst one another, simply playing their role in the community. We all have different gifts, talents, and passions and we can use those for the good of the community. We don’t have to think our gifts, talents, and passions are better, they are just ours and we can play our parts while letting others play theirs.
Instead of coming and receiving from us, a friend says “Let’s live life together.” Too many times we have the idea that people need to come to us if they need help, but the best helpers are one who do life with each other. In relationship it is easier to reveal your needs and the areas where you need help. We all need to be humble enough to ask for assistance when we need it. It is easier and more natural to ask those who you are closest to when you need help. There is less judgment when help comes from a friend.
A savior needs to be everything for the person they are helping, whereas a friend knows their limits. We cannot be someone’s everything. We need to stay within our giftings and our roles. If our friends need a licensed therapist, we don’t have to be that. If our friends need a sponsor for chemical dependency, we don’t need to be that. A savior needs to play more roles than they are qualified to play and thus does a real disservice to those they are trying to help. A friend just needs to be there for their friend.
We really have to let go of the “us and them” mentality. If we feel convicted that we need to do something to help, we need to help with the humility of a friend. This should not be a lonely, difficult, or isolating road of service. This should be service where friends are gained and relied upon. We need to set aside ourselves and let others rise up as we all learn to live together. As we walk alongside our new friends, our lives will be greatly enriched.
It is my opinion that the best leaders and servants serve as friends. Even if they have saved us and are our leaders, we don’t feel like less around them, they make us feel like more. They come and live where we are and love who we are. They love us and accept us for who we are, and although we have hopes of being better, we don’t have to be better to receive love. Friendship is a great and healing gift; we get to serve in this way. We don’t need to be a savior or leader, we can be called a friend!