The Role of Sacrifice in Healing
One morning some years ago I awoke to an internal voice saying, “A sacrifice is required.”
This statement was accompanied by the strong sense that I would be instructed as to what I was being asked to sacrifice.
My first reaction was that I wasn’t too keen on the idea. Although there were parts of my life I was unhappy with, they were still familiar and thus were somewhat comfortable. I wanted things to change without having to give anything up.
A day or so later I was driving to work when the voice returned. This time is said, “sacrifice the parts of yourself you love.”
I had to pull over to write it down. I followed the guidance and began a process of noticing, then finding within me a willingness to let go of, much of my sense of who I was.
I made a list of all the things I appreciated about myself – that I was conscientious, quiet, smart. Then I made a ritual of sacrificing them, acknowledging with each trait how I was also the opposite: selfish, loud, foolish.
When there were things I believed and liked about myself that I left off the list, a dream would come to remind me. The process was challenging, but also freeing. I knew I was creating space for a much more expanded, more genuine, and more whole version of myself.
Once I had made it through most of the treasured positive aspects of myself, I started examining the unflattering ways I viewed myself as well.
I began gathering up all the stories I told myself and others about my limitations: stories about the things I was no good at, the things I was too afraid to do, the things that would never go right for me.
Surprisingly, I found that these stories were even harder for me to let go of than the positive traits. I was really attached to these limitations; they let me off the hook for all kinds of things.
Yet, again, I found that when I was willing to let them go, to acknowledge that the opposite was sometimes true, a new freedom came with it. With this process, this became a transformative period in my life. I made my major changes and emerged happier, healthier, and feeling like myself in a way I hadn’t for years.
I don’t consider myself extraordinary for having done this. Any parent can tell you about sacrifice.
To sacrifice means “to make sacred.” It is a conscious, voluntary choice to give up something of value to you, with no expectation of getting it back. By making a deliberate choice to do this, we put the ego, with it’s desire for comfort and instant gratification, into the service of the Self, the deeper part of us. We reallocate our power to that which is best in us.
C. G. Jung believed that healing always requires a sacrifice – whether it’s giving up a cherished belief or viewpoint, a habit, or time and resources. Something must be given up in order for something else to be gained.
Healing may require us to let go of our blame, self-judgment, or attachment to the idea things should be a certain way. It may require us to give up a sense of identity that has become outdated or too small for us. On a practical level, healing may require us to remove certain things from our life, such as foods, addictions, or an unhealthy relationship or work environment.
To view this giving over as a sacrifice rather than simply something we have to stop or something that is being taken from us changes the energy of it. It becomes empowering because we consciously choose it. We choose it in the service of a healthier life, of being better.
What sacrifice is being asked of you for the sake of your own healing or growth?
What are you willing to let go of in the service of something greater?