Tuesday, November 17, 2009
There may be times when one of us will make a self-sacrifice of some kind in order that another of us can receive something especially needed.
There are some situations in which the sacrifice of a few (from giving up dinner or sleep or some other relatively small need or comfort to the voluntary risk of or even loss of life) is desirable. This may be a loving and needed way for one person to respond to another. A parent, for example, may give up sleep to attend a sick child. Those individuals who worked to contain the nuclear reactor disaster at Chernobyl are an example of necessary and desirable voluntary self-sacrifice.
It is not helpful to us, however, when we have been self-sacrificial in some way to think that we are more or less worthwhile than the person or persons for whom we have made the sacrifice. We have simply been able for various reasons to provide something which was needed at a time when it was needed.
If we are a "martyr," we tend to derive our sense of self-worth through a pattern of excessive voluntary self-sacrifice. If we are a "scapegoat," we may also eventually come to derive self-worth from self-sacrifice, though initially at least it was imposed upon us by others.
The only truly satisfying relationships are those in which we convey and perceive mutual respect and value without one of us being self-sacrificial any more often than the other (unless one of us has an excess supply of something really needed by another, and this would be more like sharing than self-sacrifice).