The Myth of Sacrifice

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For years, I’ve had an issue with the word “sacrifice.” Something about it never sat well with me and the irritation only seemed to grow the deeper I delved into my consciousness.

I started listening to how people were using it-how I had probably used it myself before I started paying attention.

The way the word was thrown around often seemed to be accompanied by an undercurrent of false humility. The idea that every sacrifice was a noble act.

But that didn’t seem to be what I was observing.

We’re quick to say “I sacrificed for the sake of (fill in the blank).” My family, my kids, my job... That sounds noble enough until you really break it down. What some of us really mean to say is “I sacrificed myself. I abandoned my heart. I neglected my soul.”

The unsaid is what has always been unsettling to me. The reframing of practical, soul-sucking choices as honorable is far too commonplace.

More often than not, it’s fear that keeps us from advancing in a particular direction. It may be fear of failure or fear of disappointing others. Our very being is calling out to us but rather than heed that voice, we call it a wrap and label it as sacrifice. This inaccurate renaming of our fear distances us from truth.

Some time ago, I was ready to do away with the word but a closer look made me rethink things. The Latin root, sacrificium, means “to make sacred.” Herein lies the missing piece that ties everything together.

Real sacrifice honors the sacredness of your being.

Sometimes you do trade the short-lived pleasure for sustained meaning. Pass up the good for the great. The point is that it ultimately leads to the highest good for ALL parties involved.

As far as I’m concerned, self-sacrifice isn’t sexy. And that doesn’t mean I’m uncompromising or selfish. It only means that I am unwilling to betray the divinity of my being. I am unwilling to occupy a constricted space in the breadth of my potential because I’m afraid to venture out.

The myth of sacrifice provides convenient refuge. Having had it drilled into our heads that sacrifice is noble, we often do it at the expense of our truest selves. But there’s nothing sacred about relegating oneself to a protracted state of non-resonance.

What is too easily named sacrifice is often devoid of the sacred element and amounts to nothing more than fear or reluctant obligation.

As author and teacher, Amy Oscar says, “When I am afraid that I am going to disappoint someone, I am already disappointing someone. Me.” When we act based on that fear, it is a moment of self-sacrifice.

To move through the world with any level of awareness is to take notice of these moments. It is then we have the opportunity to make sacred choices.

Here is where we practice the good kind of selfish-not for the egoic self, but the highest self. Here is where we reclaim sacrifice as sacred territory. Here is where we remember that no so-called “sacrifice” is ever worth the price of your soul.