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The Difference Between Rescuing and Being of Service

Saturday, November 26, 2016 16:11
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November 27th, 2016

By Lissa Rankin

Guest writer for Wake Up World

This post is hard for me to write because it shines light on one of the core patterns I’ve spent years in therapy and years in prayer trying to break — the Savior Complex. For those of you who are familiar with ‘the drama triangle’, you know that drama tends to erupt whenever we inhabit any of three roles — the victim, the martyr, and the perpetrator. Here’s how the triangle tends to go…


Someone perceives herself as the victim, and she blames the perpetrator for her plight, feeling helpless, disempowered, hurt and angry. Then the martyr swoops in to save her; only this rescuing pattern stems from pity for the victim, not true compassion. It boosts the ego of the martyr, fluffing up the martyr’s feelings of self-worth, because, at the core, the martyr doesn’t feel whole and worthy unless she’s rescuing. Over time, the martyr gives and gives until she’s depleted and then she gets resentful because she has been rescuing others at the expense of her own self-care. Then she lashes out at the victim, becoming the perpetrator to the very victim she sought to help. Or she gets sick or depressed or financially depleted, demonstrating that she has perpetrated her own body or her own mental health or her own bank account. The martyr has now become the victim.

Nobody wins. If you play any of the three roles in the drama triangle, you will inevitably play all three.

But the drama triangle is vastly different than pure service. Pure service stems from a recognition of the Oneness in all of us and emerges from compassion, not pity. It recognizes that if one cell in the human family is suffering, the whole body is at risk. It doesn’t arise from underlying feelings of unworthiness or a “not enough” wound. Pure service doesn’t judge anyone as broken or see them as inferior to you. Pure service recognizes and tends the wholeness in everyone. It arises like a rush of “Shakti” (life force energy) and leaps you out of the chair to go serve your fellow human being. Pure service serves the giver as much as the recipient of the service. It blesses the giver with the feeling of deep fulfillment which arises when you know you are being used as a vessel of Divine love in the world. Rather than depleting you and leaving you feeling resentful, pure service may even energize you, leaving you feeling even more full because the Shakti that has flowed through you to bless the service fills you at the same time that you’re serving others. This doesn’t mean you should ignore any impulse to serve others. Pure service is a beautiful and natural extension of compassion, and we need compassionate service now more than ever on this planet.


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