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Mutuality: A two way street

What you get back when you serve. How do you define ‘poverty’? Perhaps the image of the child from a charity commercial, or a country experiencing famine, or the people you see in the bus shelters near the grocery store. Living in a country like Canada, the concept of wealth is often spoken of synonymously with credit scores and account balances.

I want you to reconsider that definition. Although many of us might be materially wealthy, there are other forms of poverty that we should consider. The ever-so-popular Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is one of the most referenced models for understanding how we can measure what we have an what we lack. An individual might have an abundance of the bottom of the pyramid (safety, security, and physiological needs) but be lacking in the middle of the pyramid (love and belonging). In a similar way, someone might have abundance of self esteem, and love but be found not having as much in the bottom two categories. Which would you define as “poor”?
In both scenarios, the people are found having needs (like we all are). Defining poverty by the physiological need can cause us to miss out on the many other needs ourselves and other people have.

The Saviour Complex
The saviour complex is the (often unintentional, yet harmful) belief in a vertical aid. “I am here to rescue, save, or fix them”. Them being often people who are viewed on the basis of their financial or physical needs. The problems with the saviour complex is that it does not acknowledge the needs within ourselves and it also does not acknowledge what other people do have.

The saviour complex often strips people of their humanity, strength, beauty and resilience because it positions the people we help as “needy”, taking away the other facets of their humanity.

This is the idea that our own needs can be met as we seek to meet the needs of others. In contrast with the saviour complex, mutuality aims at acknowledging our own needs (that perhaps are not financial in nature). Approaching volunteering or service with the mindset of mutuality reminds us that the people we help are first and foremost people. It reminds us to acknowledge the strengths of the people we help as well as what we stand to gain through the service.

Oftentimes, people have a need for connection and belonging that can get swept under the rug. Serving can be a way to meet that need through connecting with the people you help. Someone might have a need to build relational trust and the helping someone might be the path to understanding trust.

As a volunteer, you have much to gain.

To explore opportunities to serve in your community, and to connect with others who are on the journey of continuing to grow in our ability to serve with mutuality, please visit

Mutuality: A two way street
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