More and more, I like to look up the etymology of words. It is fascinating to immerse oneself in the depth of meaning and symbols that is present in an everyday combination of letters. I took up this habit from my former coach John P Morgan who taught me the love of words and how language can move our world.
Recently, thanks to a client of mine who is embarking on a new heroic journey, I have been looking at the word Sacrifice. Indeed part of the difficulty of my client’s decision-making was his relating to the ‘sacrifices‘ he had made in his life, and the ones he may have to make if he were to engage on this new path. This is familiar to all of us. We all have in our past events, decisions or actions that we relate to as sacrifices we made. Things we had to give up, to abandon, and that caused us pain. The meaning my client – and most of us – put on this word was that of a cost, a painful price to pay, a zero sum game where something had to give for something else to exist.
It doesn’t take very long to notice that it is neither pleasant nor powerful to consider any decision we make or action we take in our life as a ‘sacrifice‘, when the associated meaning is that of a cost, a painful price which, when paid, rips our soul apart.
So, doing what I do and wanting to turn a painfully disempowering perspective into an almighty creative one, I looked up the word Sacrifice. Here’s what I found: from the late 13th century, “offering of something to a deity as an act of propitiation or homage”, from sacrificus “performing priestly functions”, itself from sacra “sacred rites” and facere “to make, to do”.
Interesting. To sacrifice is originally to do or to make a sacred rite.
Sacrificing is performing a Sacred Act.
I stayed with this idea and contemplated it further. I thought about the people who perform sacred rites nowadays, making offerings in temples, etc. I lived in Thailand for several years when I was younger and remembered the reverence the Thai people had for their temples. I started asking myself: how do people who have very little give food or money and have it not be painful? Surely it is a cost to them. But then I noticed that the “cost” we perceive is about self-interest. It is about a level of understanding the world which stops at the sphere of the individual, the self with a little ‘s’, and not just the self but actually, me. MY self. It is a small, narrow and limited world to be living in.
What if these people are connecting to something much bigger than them? What if they sacrifice because they are doing a sacred rite, performing a sacred act for which they have reverence, gratitude and love? What if they see the bigger, universal and selfless blessing of their action, rather than the smaller, individual and selfish pain associated to their own perceived needs?
When seeing this I began to feel humbled by the act of sacrificing anything. I began seeing it as a beautiful, respectful, sacred action. I started contemplating my own life and how my choosing to make a sacrifice about something would be a sacred act that I chose to make, with reverence, humility and love. Almost like giving back the ‘sacrificed’ item, path, choice, to the Universe / God / Divine Providence / Nature / whatever suits your beliefs. It was never really mine in the first place. After all, what can I really claim to be “mine” on this planet? I am just borrowing things, experiences and people. They are being offered for a period of time, and one day I’ll have to give them back anyway.
So what if every sacrifice is a Sacred Act, a giving back rather than a giving up?
The next day I shared this insight with another client. She applied it immediately and referred to a “sacrifice” she had made in that her boyfriend now had a better looking, healthier body because of her choosing to make the effort to pick him up from work and exercise with him rather than keeping her freedom and doing it on her own to save herself time and hassle. The sacrifice was her boyfriend having a healthier body. In other words, this was the Sacred Act she performed. She reframed it totally. The sacrifice was not the loss of her freedom and time, it was the healthier and better-looking body of her boyfriend.
When she shared this, it blew my mind.
The sacrifice is not the cost of what is gone, it is the blessing of what appears. This is the Sacred Act.
So now, over to you. What Sacred Acts will you perform in your life?
What will you sacrifice today?