Updated: Jun 25
A few weeks ago, I went on a business trip and took along an associate who has been in and out of at least five of our companies over the past 20 years. We stayed at a very nice hotel and were lucky enough to have a fancy penthouse-style room arrangement. One room had a huge king size bed and a flat screen TV on the wall, and the other had a big, cozy couch that could be converted into a bed and another flat screen TV. I didn’t offer a choice to my associate because it would have been an absolute luxury to sleep in either place and, since I own the company, it was appropriate that I make the decision. It is my natural tendency to serve others before myself and to always be conscious of treating my employees and my associates like family, so there was no guilt associated with wanting the most comfortable place to sleep. I asked my associate if she would be comfortable on the couch, and her answer was yes. I said good night, wishing her a good sleep.
I awoke the next morning to see her sleeping on the couch without a pillow and only one thin, little blanket. I was stunned when I saw her lying there, freezing, holding on for dear life to that thin, little throw blanket. I looked at her as if she were an infant and asked if she had bothered to look in the closet where there were pillows, blankets and sheets, or if she had thought about calling the front desk to ask for whatever she needed. She said no.
Now, I had to sit and think about what would make a person suffer all night! This is something a child would do. No, even a child would let the parent know that they were cold and did not have a pillow. So, what was it? I told my associate I was aware that all hotels had blankets available, and she was not my child and had to learn how to take care of herself. For goodness sake, she was 47 years old!
I began to focus on her that day as we worked the convention. I noticed a very subtle quality I had seen before that I had thought was a good quality, until now. She had always had a tendency to serve, seemed helpful and even gracious at times. I knew she was the kind of person who could be taken advantage of, but I am not the type to take advantage and knew that was why she had worked for my husband and me for so many years. She knew that we would never take advantage, but now I had to question: Who was taking advantage of whom?
The next morning, I walked into the room and, again, she had one thin, little blanket and no pillow. Now I knew that this was a sign of a major flaw in her. I had to address her thoughtlessness for herself and explained that, if she did not care for herself, then all of her service for others was not real service. In fact, her humility was like that of a beat-up puppy, and not real humility. I saw that her service to others was her hiding place. She kept under the radar and served beyond the call of duty to assure her security. Her servitude kept people off guard so they never saw that she was really a careless person with her own agenda. She worked hard to keep up this façade so that her usefulness chained us to her. I told her all of these things and also that I knew what she had been doing all of these years and that I could no longer accept her service unless it came from a place of strength! I told her that she actually served to be served. It was a form of manipulation, a little like a child, being nice so that she could get what she wanted.
I also saw that she feared the people whom she served, not because any of the people she served had been cruel, on the contrary, we had all been very thoughtful of her and very grateful, and this was the payoff that she felt she earned. Her fear came from her judgment, and it was useful for calling up her guilt. One of the other flaws that I now remembered was that the few times I had confronted her on things that I saw about her, she easily angered. This normally would have been a tip-off, but again, her anger led to her guilt, and then she served more than ever. She was very angry with me for pointing out these things, but this was her moment of truth; she had been found out.
The very next morning, I walked into the room and saw that she had pillows, and a cozy goose down comforter. I am not sure if she actually saw her true lack of self-respect, or if she just wanted to get me off of her back. I truly didn’t care anymore. My job was done the moment I called her on it, and I had no real need of this type of help, so she couldn’t dig her fangs into my spirit anymore. People like this are addicted to serve; much like a drug addict is addicted to drugs. They live to keep you off guard, and will always be there for you when you are low, sick, or hurt, and even find joy when you fail, so they can pick you up and be the savior. These people are a little like vampires, their servitude is their fangs, and your need is their life-blood. Beware of these types of helpers, they will live off your needs, and make you dependent on their service and the payoff is their rise in power over you and your needs.
Is there help for people like this? It depends on their desire to be whole and real, but the painful part for these type of people is pulling their fangs out of their host. Can you keep people like this in your service? Yes! Some of them are the best type of workers you will ever have. Just be aware, and never allow yourself to forget what you are dealing with, your awareness is the light that shines on them, and could potentially help wake them up, or not!
I share this story because I love to serve, so I know what real service is, but like dealing with my young kids, the moment that my grace is taken advantage of, I know it and put a stop to it. So, when I saw that she served in order to be taken advantage of, I knew that this was not true grace. The payoff for people serving you without true grace is your loyalty to the wrong in them!