We are taught, in our culture, that many things worth having require sacrifice, and that is true. There's little that can be accomplished if we do not learn the value of delayed gratification, and even the most harmonious of relationships cannot endure without some degree of compromise. Then too, circumstances sometimes offer us the opportunity to improve the world at some significant personal cost.
But the necessity of sacrifice does not in any way make sacrifice good in and of itself. To deny our own needs and desires, to give something up, to suffer harm to our body, mind, or soul -- these things may result in goodness, but they themselves are never a positive good.
It's critical to remember this as we make life's hard choices.
Real goodness lies in the amount of happiness we bring to the world, the amount of healing we can work upon its wounds, the amount of damage we can forestall or prevent. If we can do more good through a particular sacrifice than we could without it, then the choice to do more good is worthy and noble. But the sacrifice itself is only a tool, not an accomplishment.
All too often, we accept harm to ourselves under the mistaken notion that sacrifice is good. But in harming ourselves now, we can easily reduce the energy and capacity we have to do good later. So if a sacrifice brings about less good than we might have done with that energy elsewhere, then the choice to deny ourselves actually becomes a net loss for the world, in addition to being detrimental to us as individuals.
We should, therefore, never look for ways to sacrifice. We should only look for the way to do the most good, and be prepared to make sacrifices when they become necessary -- when we can weigh them against what they accomplish and know that we are truly making the most beneficial choice.
A martyr whose self-sacrifice brings little or no improvement to the world has only cheated us of a source of beauty and generosity.
Thank you, goddess of love, for the will to do right ... and the wisdom to do right by ourselves in the process.