The distinction between serving versus pleasing starts with where my mind is focused. When I fix, rescue, or save someone, I am inwardly focused. For example, when my son doesn't wake up on time, I will wake him up to make sure he isn't running late. I feel better about myself because I "helped" him. Aren't I nice/kind/compassionate/ a good mother?
Have I really helped my son? What would happen if he woke up late and then arrived at work late? Would he feel stressed? Would he be worried? Might he get fired? Would it be more "helpful" of me to let him experience the natural consequences of his actions? My problem is I can't stand to watch my son make mistakes. This is about me and not about him! (Sigh)
When I am serving someone, I am outwardly focused. I want what is best for them, and I allow myself to be uncomfortable. Using the same example, if I don't interrupt the chain of events of my son getting up late, rushing around in a stressed out tizzy, and then freaking out that he is going get reprimanded by his boss, then he has to deal with the aftermath. It is more likely to be a powerful experience if he goes through the natural cycle of things, i.e. I don't like to feel rushed and let people down, so I will set my alarm and wake up when it goes off.
What about our peers, coworkers or adult family members? How can we handle a rude parent, a difficult boss, or a disengaged spouse? What would it mean if I was outwardly focused? How can I honor others to learn at their own pace when they are ready? How can I serve others and let go, give up control, and be uncomfortable?