Service Isn't About You

With all the debate in the news about Arizona’s recently-vetoed bill, and the discussion about who can refuse to serve whom, I think we’ve missed something important.

When you serve someone, you put their interests first. You make yourself of use to another. You attend to the needs of another, by furnishing or supplying what that person desires.

Serving others is about the others, not about the servant.

It’s not about my crusade to teach the rest of the world what I think is right or wrong. It’s not a declaration of approval or disapproval of someone’s lifestyle, choices, or activities.

Usually it’s something simple, like making a cake – which is not a tacit approval of same-sex marriage.
Or driving a truck – which is not an expression of acceptance toward something my religion opposes.
Or cutting someone’s hair – which is not agreement with a customer’s political views.

Part of me wants to complain that government protects a truck driver who says “I’m not going to drive that truck” and culture celebrates a hairdresser who says, “I’m not going to cut her hair,” but God help you if you won’t make someone a cake.

But I’m just going to say maybe Americans on all sides of the spectrum need to grow up a bit. If we’re going to throw a fit because people refuse service to whomever they disagree with, then let’s at least be consistent in applying our outrage. It can’t be wrong only whenever I dislike the outcome. It’s wrong no matter who does it.

So I have a solution to the debate:

It’s called “How about you do your job?”


Late edit: Found an interesting New York Times op-ed about this issue. The writer considers the peaceful “live and let live” arrangement, which seems less and less likely, and the militant “crush all forms of dissent” option, which seems to be the playbook going forward. It used to be the case that you couldn’t tout some virtue while at the same time condoning the opposite. That was called hypocrisy. But when it comes to the universally-proclaimed virtue of tolerance, I’ve often been told that intolerance toward the intolerant is perfectly justified. Thus, virtues are virtues except when their opposites are virtues. Good luck to all of us navigating the moral minefields of the future. I hope you don’t find yourself on the unpopular side, whichever that happens to be in a given moment.

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