There are several virtues that people think of in the context of the Warrior’s Path. These include strength, courage, and determination. To me, perhaps one of the most important core virtues is to be of service.
What does it mean to be of service? In a general context and in its basic form, I believe it means to use one’s skills or hard-earned wisdom to aid others. This is accomplished in several ways- mostly by guiding and teaching, or placing the needs and well being of others in the forefront. Often, this translates as putting oneself at risk to protect others. A few good examples are found in contemporary society- soldiers, firefighters, police officers (in fact, many police vehicles are emblazoned with the motto “to protect and to serve”). In the times we find ourselves in now, I also consider health care workers, delivery drivers, truck drivers, even grocery store workers to be in this category- giving of themselves, even putting themselves at risk, to aid others .
We are all familiar with the typical , modern archetypes of service that many people think of in the Warrior context. History and literature provide us with figures that have helped shape our perceptions of this type of service. The most prevalent is of course the Knight, sworn and oath-bound to defend King, land, and hearth. The Samurai of feudal Japan is another example, swearing loyalty to his Shogun, his sword and deep code of honor binding him in service. Students of the Celtic civilizations are of course familiar with the ancient Fianna of Irish legends, wandering bands of warrior-heroes defending the land and its folk.
These are only one aspect of service on the Warrior’s Path. There are other examples of those who serve by giving of themselves. These include the teacher, the mentor, the aforementioned health care worker. They too give of themselves, using their knowledge, wisdom, and passion to guide and teach, or to even save lives. I would consider their efforts and their contributions no less heroic than those of our wandering free companies of warriors!
There is another aspect of service that is often overlooked. When you give of yourself, a symbiosis occurs (this brings to mind the Irish Fianna, most of the year they were required to live off of the land, in essence becoming integrated with it. As they protected the land, so did it nourish them). As those you serve gain benefit from your knowledge, or are protected by your skills, you receive something in return- a sense of purpose. To use myself as an example, as I teach martial arts and all of the integral dynamics involved, I too gain strength and understanding as I share my knowledge, skills, and experience. As I give of myself, I receive positive energy in return, knowing that I am fulfilling my purpose along my path. The more I serve with understanding and humility, the more I grow internally. Even if you serve simply for the love of helping others, you are open to receive positive intentions in return (whether you are conscious of it or not).
All must be in a balance for us to truly understand what it means to serve. Yes, there are times when Warriors must wield the sword. At these times we must engage with full intent and purpose, acting without hesitation; with courage and tenacity.
But, to be of service transcends wielding the sword, it also means holding out your open hand with mercy. The strong arm must be balanced with a truthful heart. That is the ‘fortress’ from which we best serve.
The single clenched fist lifted and ready,
Or the open hand held out and waiting.
For we meet by one or the other”. –Carl Sandberg