Here to Serve

I feel that we are each here to serve in our own unique way and that we are each encoded with a treasure to gift to the world. An undergoing like a physical or mental illness, loss, or other trauma often precedes the discovery and giving of our true gift. This undergoing serves a sacred purpose in ripening our gifts and awakening within us fierce compassion and fire for giving. 

Your specific pain, undergoing, and story provide clues as to who you’re here to serve and in what capacity. Your life experience prepares you for the work that you are here to do.

While it’s essential to honor the process of our own undergoing and to respect the time that takes, when we see our suffering as being personal or when we deceive ourselves into thinking that we are the only one who is suffering, I feel that we’ve missed the point. Through my own suffering with Lyme disease I've become aware of all the suffering in the world. Once I woke up to that I simply couldn’t go back to sleep. It stirred in my heart an overwhelming sense of needing to contribute in some way to bringing more love, kindness, and compassion into this world.

Regardless of the specifics, our undergoings are initiations through the underworld, and if all goes well, we resurface as whole and riper versions of ourselves. These initiations mature us on all levels and prepare us for a life of service and purpose. We are being prepared for a life of soul.

Buddhists say that focusing on oneself guarantees a life of unhappiness and that serving others brings true and lasting happiness. There are countless studies that show that the most fulfilled individuals are those whose lives center on service. I finally get this on a whole new level. I have rounded a bend recently in realizing that my undergoing is not even about me. I am being shown, being prepared, being trained for some great purpose in this world. I am being used as a vessel for the honing and delivery of some treasure. I am not special in this—I believe that we are all given this sacred opportunity.

Artwork by Sam Nagel
And while it may be hard to accept on the more challenging days that our suffering is actually grace-filled, there is the potential for a deep reframing of our suffering that can bring strength, resilience, and greater trust to the undergoing.

Depth-psychologist and wilderness guide Bill Plotkin calls men and women who’ve successfully undergone initiations “genuinely adult humans” and says that it’s very rare in contemporary society to meet these soulcentric men and women. These individuals are clear about life purpose, they know deep down in their bones the treasures they possess for their people, they know who their people are, and they engage joyously in their soul work deriving deep satisfaction from their efforts to make the world a more vital and beautiful place. According to Plotkin, a genuinely adult human is in service to others and to the world as a whole. (Plotkin, 2008, p. 45) A genuinely adult human has the capacity for selflessness, respects life, and is a catalyst and creator of a soulful and sustainable world.

I think that somewhere in the very popular conversation about finding our life’s purpose we have glossed over this crucial piece about service. We often talk about life purpose with personal-gratification at the center of the conversation. It’s about what we can get from life not about what we can give. While, there is nothing inherently wrong with seeking out personal gratification, whatever that may look life, if that’s the foundation of our lives there will never be this deep fulfillment that Plotkin talks about or the ripening of self past a perpetual adolescence.

In my own journey of suffering with Lyme disease, and we all have some kind of suffering—regardless of what we call it—it brings me great comfort to know that it hasn’t all been for nothing. In knowing that out of my initiation will come greater beauty, love, kindness, and compassion in this world makes it bearable somehow. It reconnects me with grace. Translating our pain into purpose is perhaps one of the only things that makes suffering feel worthwhile.

I invite you to contemplate these ideas. What if your life is not only about you? When you shift the focus from what you're getting to what you're able to give what new possibilities and inspiration open up? 

In reframing your life, you will likely see that your story has prepared you to give your unique treasure to the world. Your story is not a mistake. How you are wired is not a mistake. What is your sacred opportunity?

We are here to be givers in the great wheel of life and it is in the giving that we receive.

2014 © Marie-Ève Bonneau

To read more on this subject check out: The Ordeal and the Gift


Plotkin, Bill. (2008). Nature and the human soul: Cultivating wholeness and community in a fragmented world.  Novato, CA: New World Library.