We're talking about the fact that each of us needs to realize what our motives are before we can give meaningful care. Those who are employed to give care to others, i.e. professional care providers, have the motive of professional pride, getting paid for their work, and the joy in a job well done. That used to be one of the motives which drove me to always be "johnny-on-the-spot" when needed to give care to others (though that was probably the least motivating factor of all). Then there are those of us who enjoy all of the social interaction that takes place around those who are in critical need. We like to have the opportunity to fellowship with others and keep up with what's going on. There are the ultimate motive of love and compassion; the motives that I feel are the primary motives that draw us to try to give effective help when others need it. We will focus more on these later.
Right now, we are going to examine the need each of us has, to some degree or another, to win the approval of others. We want to be liked by others. We want to be needed by them. And while we don't like to face that fact, it can/does motivate us to go out there and give care to others.
The need for approval includes such things as peer pressure (I want my friends to know that I extend myself to meet the needs of others), church-dogma-induced pressure (am I doing enough good works on behalf of my church?), divine pressure (am I failing in my attempts to fulfill God's expectations of me?), and so forth. To be effective, we need to have an understanding of just how strongly we are governed by the need for the approval of others. We need to understand how that need may be impacting the care that we give.
This need for the approval of others can drive me to do a great many worthy, caring deeds, but at the same time, it can cripple how well I can carry them out. Let me explain what I mean:
As I've said before, I live my life on a slower pace than most others in our culture today. I'm fairly smart, but I don't shoot very fast from the hip. I do better when I can approach things with a little preparation, after I've had some time to examine what's going on.
My mom informs me that I have always been that way. She said that I was a quiet baby who didn't cry as long as my diaper was dry and my stomach was full. I was such a happy and content baby that I didn't bother to walk until I was almost two years old. Since then, I've continued to enjoy the slower-paced life. I've always been more comfortable in the country or the small town than in a large city. Rather than being drawn to fast cars, I enjoy the ride of a 4-wheel drive truck. I've always preferred putting my feet under a table and taking the time to enjoy a home cooked meal as opposed to zooming through the drive-thru at a fast food place. I love the convenience of technology, but when it comes down to the important things, I like face-to-face, in-person interaction.
This side of me can, and does, cause me some tension. In our present culture where numbers are held in high esteem and quantity often outweighs the value of quality, I don't excel as well as some. Since I'm constantly aware of that fact, I always had to fight against the tendency to shorten the length of my visits, so that I can make more of them (therein increasing the number of visits made in a day's span). I had to get some kind of answer to the quandry: “Is it better to visit 12 people in a day and give them fair care than it is to visit 6 people in a day and give them more meaningful care? More to the point was the question: “What would make me look better in the eyes of those around me, those from whom I value their opinion?”
How about you? Do you catch yourself going out of your way to help someone because deep down, you want their family to think well of you? Or let's say that you do go to visit your great aunt who has just been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. Do you stay long enough to listen to her distraught feelings and to answer her questioning of why it had to happen to her? Or do you cut things a little short because your son's ball team is having a game that night, and you don't want your son to be disappointed by your absence. Whose is the greater need? But whose approval do you need the most? Long-winded, broken-hearted aunt vs. angry, despondent son who wants you in the stands to cheer him on?
Before you leave to go give help, be clear on why you are going. That way, you are being honest with yourself and can therein lean less to your own agenda, and focus on the agenda of the care receiver.