Self Sacrifice


The path to greatness is called SACRIFICE

Imagine cavemen sitting in comfort before a fire in a communal cave being urged by their mates to go hunting for food on a cold, rainy, winter day. They are being called on to make a sacrifice. They are being asked to give up the comfort of their cave temporarily for greater rewards. Of course, there is initial resistance. But by accepting the task, they discover their rewards far outweigh the comfort they temporarily set aside. For they will come to experience the joy of victory over the foul weather, the exhilaration that follows a successful hunt, the praise of their mates and offspring, the sharpening of their survival skills, the camaraderie of working as a team, and the intense pleasure of returning to the cave.

Life has changed in many ways since the cave dwellers. Yet, in many ways it remains the same. After all, we are bound by an immutable law of the universe that states ALL ACHIEVEMENTS REQUIRE SACRIFICES. Those who refuse to make sacrifices refuse to grow. They refuse to succeed. They refuse to discover the joy of accomplishment. They refuse to establish meaning and purpose in their lives. And when they do so, they pay a heavy price. For the pain of future failure will be far greater than any discomfort a sacrifice would have required. Don't join the ranks of those who have yet to learn that it's not what we take up, but what we give up, that makes us successful.

We are social creatures. We depend on one another. We cannot achieve our goals without the help of others. Yet, others have their own agendas, goals, and interests. So, how can we work together without compromising? To succeed, we need to learn that we have to let go of one thing to gain another. We have to understand that sacrifice, or doing what we don't want to get what we do want, is inexorably enmeshed in life. The extent to which we are willing to sacrifice controls the extent to which we will be successful. Or, as James Allen (1864 ~ 1912) wrote, "He who would accomplish little must sacrifice little; he who would achieve much must sacrifice much; he who would attain highly must sacrifice greatly."

Most of us realize this, but before we can make a sacrifice, we have to overcome the resistance to doing so. How can we make our task easier? How can we reduce the sting? The greatest favor we can do for ourselves is change our perspective. That is, change the way we look at things. The problem is the word SACRIFICE has a negative nuance. It implies making an effort, doing what we don't want to, and undergoing pain. Why not put a positive spin on it. Why not focus on the beautiful things suggested by the word?

For example, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 ~ 1882) had this to say, "Self-sacrifice is the real miracle out of which all the reported miracles grow." So, instead of calling something a sacrifice, why don't we call it a MIRACLE? Think about it for a moment. We are the only animals that can willingly do what we don't want to do. That is a miraculous power. Sacrifice is the miracle that makes great things possible.

The word SACRIFICE is made up of SACRI and FICIO, which means TO MAKE HOLY. So, when we make sacrifices, we are sanctifying our actions, for whenever we raise ourselves to a higher level, we are bringing ourselves closer to our Creator. Rather than looking at sacrifice as something negative, look at it as a miracle, a holy act, a heroic act, a joyous, creative act, the means to our goal, an investment in the future, and a step to greatness. Look at it as a commitment and determination to succeed. When we look at it in these ways, it becomes much more palatable. When seen in this light, we realize that sacrifice is not about LOSS but about GAIN.

Another way of looking at sacrifice is as a source of happiness. And the greater the struggle that sacrifice entails, the greater the happiness that follows. Consider the words of the American Women's Suffrage Leader, Olympia Brown (1835 ~ 1926), who said, "He who never sacrificed a present to a future good or a personal to a general one can speak of happiness only as the blind do of colors." Yes, those who refuse to let go of their present, transient comfort or pleasure are blind, and don't know happiness. Their refusal to sacrifice defeats the very purpose of their being. For we are here to experience endless growth, joy, and freedom, all of which are realized by acts of sacrifice.

Yet another way to look at sacrifice is as service. Personal sacrifice for our own improvement is a holy act, but sacrificing for others, for their enrichment, as a parent does for a child, is the holiest of acts. Such sacrifices breed loyalty from those we serve and crown us with abundant blessings. To the enlightened soul, serving others isn't seen as a sacrifice. Rather, it is viewed as joyful giving.

Those who reject sacrifices, remain enslaved by their own weaknesses. American Author Bruce Barton (1886 ~ 1967) wrote, "What a curious phenomenon it is that you can get men to die for the liberty of the world who will not make the little sacrifice that is needed to free themselves from their own individual bondage." It is bizarre, isn't it, that some young men and women are willing to make the supreme sacrifice for their country, yet hesitate to sacrifice small things for their own welfare and happiness.

Everyone would like to achieve great things, but the ordinary person sees only the sacrifices that must be made and gives up the struggle. The rash person sees just the prize and jumps into the fray without enough preparation and loses the fight. But the wise see both the difficulties, which they carefully overcome, and the prize, which they win. Once you know what needs to be done, don't delay, as many prizes have been lost not because of the inability to act, but the failure to act quickly enough.

Willingness to sacrifice is a sign of a strong character and is to be encouraged. A German saying makes this same point, "When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, everything is lost." While we can rightfully be proud of our many accomplishments because of the sacrifices we have made, let's not forget the sacrifices made for us by others. So, let our achievements be marked by a feeling of gratitude and not one of smugness.

Sometimes, despite the sacrifices we make, we do not reach our goal. If we are stuck in a quagmire, making no progress, it may be time to change direction. After all, persistently pursuing something that was not meant to be merely stands in the way of going after another, even more valuable, dream. Besides, sometimes the best win is to lose. How many times have your past 'failures' turned out to be blessings? It has happened in the past and will continue to happen. So be prepared for it and remain upbeat, changing course whenever necessary. And when you do 'fail,' use the accompanying feelings of disappointment and pain to empathize with others and offer them encouragement. By approaching life with open eyes and an open mind and heart, we can change 'negative' events into positive occurrences. Don't think 'sacrifice;' think joy, growth, and freedom!

© Chuck Gallozzi
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