The Virtue of Sacrifice

Aspiration is the first of the three pillars of Mindful Self-Discipline. There are seven steps, as illustrated above, to developing an aspiration that is strong and clear. Here we begin discussing the seventh step, Make Your Offering, which is related to the virtue of sacrifice.

To make space for the new, you need to let go of the old; to transform yourself, you need to sacrifice yourself. You do that by letting go of everything that is not aligned with your goals and values, thus creating space in your life for what matters most. 

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.

—Lao Tzu

Self-discipline can be hard because it requires some sacrifice. The sacrifice of at times not doing what would feel pleasant in the moment, or the sacrifice of doing something that feels unpleasant. That is not really appealing for our lizard brain, because it just cares about the pleasure or pain that is in front of us right now.

Mindful Self-Discipline is about outgrowing that primitive view of the world. It involves our capacity to sacrifice, our willingness to let go of a small short-term gain (instant gratification) for a greater long-term gain (delayed gratification). It is trading a small value (comfort) for a larger value (fulfillment). It is following your bliss, yes—the higher bliss.

The concept of sacrifice is as old as humankind, and is found in the lore of all ancient philosophical and spiritual traditions. You give up something of value now to get something of greater value later. This requires faith, because there are no guarantees. The only guarantee you have is that if you don’t make your sacrifice, you will never get the end goal.

The most important decision about your goals is not what you’re willing to do to achieve them, but what you are willing to give up.

—Dave Ramsey

The word “sacrifice” comes from two Latin roots: sacra (sacred things) and facere (to do or perform). To make a sacrifice is to do something sacred—and to make something sacred. From the point of view of self-discipline, willingness to sacrifice means that you are getting attuned to what is most sacred inside of you—your highest values and aspiration.


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