The third source of transformation according to John G. Bennett is sacrifice.
Sacrifice is a misunderstood concept, to say the least, and perhaps is more easily understood by doing it.
There is a reason the idea and act of sacrifice comes after learning and struggle. It requires more from us. We come to know what we can bear and when we bear something, great rewards ensue.
We cannot, however, approach sacrifice with the idea of reward in mind for then it is no longer a sacrifice. The very definition of sacrifice is deliberately releasing attachment without any expectations. The other part of the definition is that sacrifice requires a decision. It is a higher order coming from the will.
Struggle on the other hand results in the ability to choose.
This is the difference between struggle and sacrifice, and the reason why sacrifice requires something more from us. We decide to separate ourselves from something and put it outside of our present moment thus making an energetic connection with it outside of time and space. This is not easy to understand, but we can begin to see what it means when looking at specific examples.
Bennett uses the example of deciding to let go of our own self-pity when losing a loved one. When we sacrifice the attachment to what we wish was different, we get to experience a connection to that person in other wordly form thus extending our awareness and perception of our actual present moment. We go beyond our limiting experience because of sacrifice.
We can also look at what it means to sacrifice our attachment to being right. In any simple argument or disagreement, there is the chance to experience freedom when we decide to let the other person be right. We all hate to be wrong, so we concoct enormous stories around why we did this or that. It is the way we weave our own web of deception. We can be very convincing to ourselves. When we relinquish this belief that we were justified in behaving the way we did, something opens up for the two people involved. In this case, we don’t wait around for the other person to change. We see our part in it through sacrifice of being right.
If either person is able to give way, there is possibility.
The essence of sacrifice is decision.
The age old example of sacrifice is the story of Abraham and his choice to sacrifice his son Isaac. Most people see the merit of this act as obedience to God, but the transformational aspect was not blind obedience, but the power to make the choice to separate himself from his son Isaac. No doubt Abraham “struggled” with this decision, but the sacrifice came when the decision was made.
There is also much to be said about what we believe sacrifice to be, when it isn’t. If there is some kind of satisfaction gained through anonymous giving, it isn’t sacrifice. If there is some boost of ego or sense of power for doing something that one feels is a gift or contribution, then it isn’t sacrifice. As well, if it doesn’t “cost” something, then it isn’t a sacrifice.
“Sacrifice is necessary because everything worth having must be paid for, and the word sacrifice is simply another word for payment.” JGB
We must be willing to pay without buying anything. We cannot sacrifice with the specific purpose of gaining something. This is why it is so tricky. Sometimes the benefit is boosting our own sense of self, our own goodness, and this is a far cry from sacrifice.
Sometimes we mistake sacrifice for depriving ourselves of exactly what we need. It comes in the form of trying to be a “good person”, when actually it is overlooking our very own well being. Our egotistical identification with being a martyr does not a sacrifice make.
Our decisions can also be dominated by what others think, by inherent patterns of self-loathing, and by consequences in the past. We have the sense that we are making sacrifices for the good of others, when in fact, it is the inability to make a decision from free will.
The result of true sacrifice is freedom. To be free is to not be influenced by things outside of our present moment; things like conditioning and identification. Sacrifice requires some restraints and above all, cost. We feel the cost. We do what we don’t want to do because we have made that decision from a present moment of discrimination and not from what we think someone else wants us to do or what we perceive as “the right thing”.
When we do things we don’t want to do, and are filled with resentment, or oppositely, self-righteousness, we have definitely not made a “conscious decision”.
That decision is influenced by many factors, none of which have to do with sacrifice.
The problem arises because we believe we have made a conscious choice.
When all kinds of subsequent inner repercussions start bubbling up, we question the decision (because it wasn’t an actual decision) and justify ourselves right out of “the decision”.
Sometimes this decision means sacrificing the suffering we are used to imposing on ourselves. The sacrifice can often look unexpected. We finally step into our power and decide to not please everyone else. Conversely, sacrifice can look like giving up an image of ourselves in order to fulfill our practical needs.
Sacrifice has to be what we can bear and not more. Bennett says when we enter into sacrifice, we project something of ourselves outside of the present with the absolute possibility of freedom. We do so willingly knowing it will take strength and grit.
We make the decision in faith, and we don’t look back.
Please let me know how sacrifice has worked in your life. When did you think you were sacrificing when it was really just self-sabotage? When did you know emphatically that what you had done was a sacrifice?
Sending love to you this week.