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Our world values duty. Duty is defined as a moral or legal obligation or a required action. Our culture honors those who have a strong sense of duty in the military, first responders, teachers and so on. We may find ourselves doing a lot of things out of a sense of duty and it may even make us feel good about ourselves.
Many years ago, I decided I would strive to no longer do anything out of a sense of duty. For me, duty was settling for the lesser. Duty was not tapping into the same motivation as love. I wanted my motivations to be exposed and subject to the law of love in everything I did. Some of you may say, “Doesn’t love obligate you to do things?” To which I answer, “No. I’m never obligated by love, I’m compelled by it or it isn’t love.”
The precipice of this spiritual discipline is found the moment we are asked to do something that we don’t want to do. This is a crucial moment of spiritual awareness. If we pause in this brief moment, we can uncover our motives for our actions. If we act begrudgingly, we have already lost. However, we can also find a loving motivation to proceed with what presents as unpleasant work. Focusing on the people rather than the task is a good place to start if you are just learning this practice.
Jesus told religious leaders to “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.‘”(Matt 9:13). Jesus was telling the most devout people to go back and read the Hebrew scripture of Hosea 6 which said “I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” In other words, our motives are primary to our actions. Externals mean little without aligned internals. We can do the right thing the wrong way and it is still wrong, and conversely we can do the wrong thing the right way and it is right. This is why Jesus could break the ten Commandments and not sin while doing so. Pure motives. If we grasp this spiritual principal we will possess the single greatest principal of all religion, the law of love (Mark 12:28)
When we are called upon for action that we don’t want to do, we need only access love, compassion, or mercy and instantly our wanters change their tune. Our obligations transform into pleasures. By acknowledging that “This is what love does” we are able to partake in the transcendent motive that transforms our reluctant and stingy hearts. If we are engaged in an action and it is not what love does, then we shall expect and endure the callouses that form and the resident hell that emerges when acting on lesser motives. We all hate how it feels to be forced by either external or internal powers. Try waiting for love instead. If we cannot find love as a motive, perhaps we need not act at all.
There was a time in my life when my job was to clean portable toilets. It was in this job that I learned how to find love as my motivation. It was a job that most would never do, but I found a humble place in my heart to love those who would use this facility. I desired to give dignity and humanity back to those whose livelihoods require the use of portable toilets. Love compelled me to ensure their experience was not stereotypical. It was ok that it was a thankless job.
Love is the purest and best motivation for anything. Duty is only just slightly above, fear, guilt, greed, ego or revenge as a motivator. Duty obligates us, love compels us. If our life is a list of obligations, then it has great capacity for the motivation of love. Don’t let duty trap you into a loveless life. God is not pleased with diligent ongoing duty when freedom and pleasure are available to ignite the same tasks. If we can’t find love in our tasks, then we probably shouldn’t be doing those tasks. Let’s check our motivations and watch our life transform in turn.