To serve a good cause

The Germans believe that when you serve another person – dienen – you have to accept the value system of that person. He who serves, has to do things, has to act in a way, which he might otherwise fully reject. Even more, the person serving is obligated to do his very best.

Germans do not consider this a relief, not as a transfer of moral responsibility from the one serving to the one being served. On the contrary, it represents a burden for them, knowing from the very start that they will invariably come into conflict with their conscience.

On the other hand, when Germans are willing to serve a good purpose, a cause they believe in, they are freely submitting to a belief, taking a moral stand, agreeing with a set of arguments. They can formulate those arguments in a way which fits their values. If one can no longer support the cause, there is no obligation to continue contributing time and effort.

Psychologically this means that serving a good cause, whether through action, financial assistance or communicating a message, means serving one’s own value system. One is obligating oneself freely. Independence and self-determination are protected.