The Joy of Sacrifice


My co-worker and fellow blogger shared this article with me in which the columnist challenged people, in the new year and the new decade, to look at a few things through fresh eyes. The writer listed 52 suggestions, one for every week of the year. This week’s topic is Self-Sacrifice.

Self-sacrifice. Sacrificing self. Sacrificing one’s self. Sacrificing one’s desires, wants, needs, preferences. Sacrificing all of those things for what? For the sake of another? For a good cause? Because one is asked to? Because one has no choice to? Because one wants to?

As a mom I sacrifice daily for my boys. I give up my a lot of my time and at times my happiness in deference to their needs or happiness. But sacrifice is just one of those things moms do both out of expectation and necessity, right? I gave up sleep to feed the baby in the middle of the night. I sacrificed seeing my close friend graduate college because the baby was sick. I’ve missed work and other functions when one of the boys was sick or had a music program that needed attending or a doctor appointment to go to or a teacher that needed meeting with or a babysitter than canceled. I’ve given up or made very slow progress at my hobbies due to lack of “me” time because so much time is devoted to them. What a whiny list this has become.

But that gets to where I’m going with this — I like to think that most days, most things I don’t complain. I chose to be a mom (twice!) and accepted with that the things I love about it and the things that require sacrifice. I love my boys and the joy they bring, and along with receiving that joy comes the sacrifices necessary to have it. The thing I’m uncertain about is this: is my sacrifice diminished if I complain about it? If I whine about not getting to read as much as I would like because my evening routine is supper, baths, homework, laundry, cleaning, etc., are those things still sacrifice? If I whine, or worse if my heart is not in those things, is it no longer a gift but rather done out of obligation?

To sacrifice is to give, freely, with no strings attached, for the benefit of another. I wonder, should joyfully be part of that definition? Maybe it doesn’t have to be; maybe sacrifice can exist without joy, but sacrifice would be so much better and sweeter and hold more meaning if it wasn’t forced or done begrudgingly.

“In an old Friends episode Phoebe and Joey got into a debate about whether there was such a thing as a selfless good deed, Joey’s argument being that if the good deed made you feel good about yourself then it was no longer selfless. Without getting into on which side of that debate I fall, …”

I wrote that as part of a post on Going Through the Motions, and I avoided telling which side of the debate I fall. I disagree with them both, I guess, in that I feel a selfless good deed, a self-sacrificing act should make you feel good. Sometimes they won’t because sacrifices have elements about them that are painful and hard and inconveniencing and we will fall victim to those feelings at times. We will choose to fall victim to those things. But even a hard thing, with the right perspective, can have an element of joy at seeing the benefits to the person you are sacrificing for. The key: the right perspective. I struggle often at having the right perspective.

Sacrifice isn’t easy. Giving up something you want or like or enjoy for the sake of someone else can be unpleasant. But for it to be worth it I think there should be joy (at least a little bit) found in the outcome.

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