Personal Sacrifice

My words stood out on the page: “Personal Sacrifice”.

I was reading one of my performance reviews from ten years ago. Lots of glowing praise from the appraiser and, because the review involved peer assessments, I enjoyed overwhelmingly positive comments from those I worked with back then.

I was surprised and humbled. Surprised at the comments and humbled at the overall goodwill that was evident in the document. I made some comments on the performance review. And, under a heading called “Regrets” I wrote the words “Personal Sacrifice”. I’m not sure, but I think I was referring to my focus on career over family and community.

I have changed my thinking a lot since then. And I came across this observation on Personal Sacrifice a few years ago. I do not recall the source.

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.

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