A friend shared this quote from Andy Stanley with me today:
“The question isn’t, what am I here for? The question is, who am I here for?”
It seems that for many people, getting older means a shift from focus on me to focus on others. Children are consumed with their own needs and wants, while we admire parents and grandparents, teachers and mentors who seem to effortlessly live selflessly for others.
I remember talking to a experienced radio personality who told me, “I used to think that being on the radio meant I needed to be clever all the time. Once I learned that it’s all about the audience, it got easy.”
If you’re like me, you can probably relate. A life focused on your own pursuits and your own success is stressful and unfulfilling. When you focus on the person or the people you want to serve, life gains direction and becomes more enjoyable too. I often come back to Tolstoy’s description of this insight in War & Peace:
Having read thus far, Princess Mary sighed and glanced into the mirror which stood on her right. It reflected a weak, ungraceful figure and thin face. Her eyes, always sad, now looked with particular hopelessness at her reflection in the glass. “She flatters me,” thought the princess, turning away and continuing to read. But Julie did not flatter her friend, the princess’ eyes – large, deep and luminous (it seemed as if at times there radiated from them shafts of warm light) – were so beautiful that very often in spite of the plainness of her face they gave her an attraction more powerful than that of beauty. But the princess never saw the beautiful expression of her own eyes – the look they had when she was not thinking of herself. As with everyone, her face assumed a forced unnatural expression as soon as she looked in a glass…
It seems we’re to live, not for ourselves, but for someone else. In fact, it’s possible you can be more yourself when you’re not focused on yourself.
Who are you here to serve?