The Erroneous Concept that Self-Sacrifice is the Highest Form of Love
Diary Excerpt 11/9/2016 (Camano Island, WA)
I just started an online course that’s supposed to help clear mental blocks (I can certainly feel that I have a few), and it’s been surprisingly enlightening! I just started it on Sunday, and within the first half hour I had some realizations that just knocked me to the floor. Isn’t it crazy how our human behavior can be rooted in programming that goes so deep we are completely unaware of it? And then once you see it clearly, of course, you see it EVERYWHERE and wonder how you ever missed it in the first place!
It occurred to me on Sunday that we as Mormons/Christians/Americans, what have you, are largely taught from a young age that we should be “Christ like.” How often did we have that drummed into us as LDS members? Our entire concept of love is rooted in self-sacrifice. God loved us, so he sent his son to die. Christ loved us, so he sacrificed himself for the world. Joseph Smith loved us, so he was willing to be martyred for the “truth.” Our pioneer ancestors sacrificed everything crossing the plains so that we could live in Zion. God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, because that was the ultimate test of Abraham’s love and devotion to God. (I always found that story upsetting as a child, by the way. It seemed like a really messed up thing for a loving God to do). Even the things that are supposed to bring us the most happiness, like true love and marriage, must ultimately be sacrificed to the requirements of polygamy. Not even if our own homes, or heavens, are women allowed happiness without serious strings attached.
On top of that, you have the additional layer of guilt – “to whom is given, much is required.” We were saved for the latter days, and everyone had sacrificed so much for us, and now it was our turn to repay that sacrifice. The “debt” was presupposed. We were obligated to make payment without ever agreeing to the contract in the first place. I had the sudden realization that my entire life, I have been willingly sacrificing myself on the altar, because I believed that was the highest form of love. And the more I loved someone, or the more I desired something, the more I sacrificed. When things went badly in my life despite my very best efforts, I subconsciously felt that my sacrifices must not have been great enough to pay the price required – so I sacrificed increasingly more.
I have discovered that the limit of my sacrifice has no end. I will literally give my sanity, my health, my happiness, my time, even my life for the people I love. I know that, because I have been doing it consistently for the last 25 years. Unfortunately, what good has it actually done? How am I showing my kids more love by being so stressed and anxious that I cry all the time? What good would it do if I died and they had no mother? I am suddenly realizing that sacrifice is only one form of love, and yet it’s pretty much the only one I have been practicing. And it doesn’t work for a lot of situations! How can I create something beautiful to send into the world when my actions are often stemming from a place of pain and self-denial?