Sacrificing OF vs FOR others

The Totem Pole of Self

Sacrifice is the true currency of the world.

Tony Robbins gets it. During a humanitarian trip to Haiti with Tim Ballard of Operation Underground Railroad, he cut a five-figure check on the spot for an orphanage there, supporting all their expenses and needs for two years. Why? Because he understands the principle that “The secret to living is giving,” as he often states.

Many highly successful people engage in charitable acts and philanthropy, because they too understand this principle. Some call it karma, or the law of attraction. “What goes around, comes around.” The law of tithing in religion stems from this principle because it DOES bring blessings.

I like to think of a totem pole that we either move up or down depending on the thoughts and actions we entertain. Breaking this down into a little list may help illustrate:

Sacrifice OF others:

* blaming

* eyerolling

* gossiping

* seeking power or authority over others

* Manipulating

* seeking your own fame and fortune to satisfy or build ego

* taking advantage of others

* passive aggression

* name-calling

* Flipping off another driver / road rage

* stealing

* judging

* causing pain or suffering

* ultimate evil being human sacrifice, which we find all throughout history. It existed for a reason, it is a conduit to real evil power.

Sacrifice FOR others:

* smiling at strangers

* listening

* Holding the door for someone

* giving compliments

* giving gifts

* spending quality time

* Allowing someone to merge in front of you in traffic

* calling a friend just to check in

* getting your children ready for school / doing their laundry

* reading your children a book before going to sleep

* feeding the hungry

* donating your time to serve others

* participating in communities with the intention of wanting to be helpful and make a difference

* alleviating pain or suffering

* ultimate sacrifice, that of giving one’s life for another (think Jesus Christ)

As we sacrifice OF others, we grow more selfish and our egos get bigger. In contrast, when we sacrifice FOR others, we become more selfless, feel a stronger connection, and shed our ego.

However, it’s not always straightforward. A lot of things can go on either side of this list, depending on our intentions for doing them. For example, if our intentions are selfish, a seemingly charitable act can actually be self-serving. Like enduring helping out a neighbor we don’t like that owns a boat in hopes that they offer to take us out on the lake or volunteering at a soup kitchen to appear virtuous to help our political campaign while judging those we serve. It’s all about our intentions or our hearts. Only we can truly judge. Most things aren’t just black or white.

It’s one pole, and we move up or down based on what we do. We must do something! Doing nothing is still something. Seeking our own comfort and being idle is self-serving and earns us no brownie points. God prefers hot or cold over lukewarm, because then we have a definite purpose we are acting towards. It’s clear where we stand, instead of just sitting on the fence. We should all pick a side.

Have you ever walked away from a conversation with a negative person and felt drained? They were probably down lower on the totem pole. The higher up you are, the easier it is to figure out how God communicates with you individually, because “The Great Spirit” is always trying to communicate with us.

A funny thing, I feared that applying this principle would make me selfish, and I worried that I was doing things for the wrong reasons. The truth is, however, the more you sacrifice of yourself for others, the more you find yourself loving, admiring, and appreciating others. You can’t help but start to love those whom you serve. So even if it takes a seemingly selfish motivator, it will still change you.

A song I grew up singing that has stuck with me, and I think of often, contains the following lyrics:

“Because I have been given much,

I too must give;

Because of thy great bounty Lord,

Each day I live;

I shall divide my gifts from thee

With every brother that I see

Who has the need of help from me.”

If we can do something to relieve the suffering of another on any level, we ought to do so! It’s for their benefit, and our own. It is the gift that keeps on giving. A lot of times, receiving a kind act can be a motivator to pay it forward and spread this “light” with others. Charity is how you shine and share your light with others.

The opposite takes light from others, and hoards it away; like the Grinch who tried to steal Christmas. You are zapping away people’s good moods, confidence, or robbing them of their light. Sacrifice of others douses out their candle flame and does not make you any happier as a result. You both get dragged down lower.

The higher up the totem pole, the more joy you get out of sacrificing for others. It gets to the point where it does not even feel like a sacrifice at all, and you are happy for the chance to serve. Likewise, the lower down you are, you also will begin to find some morbid satisfaction out of bringing others down. The saying “Misery loves company” comes to mind.

I hope we can all be more aware of what we are doing, the decisions we make, our intentions, and how it actually affects us, as well as others. If we aren’t aware, we probably do a handful of mild things on either side of the list and don’t really progress or digress, but average out at around the same spot day in and day out. Maybe just being aware will be the catalyst to help you start to climb a little higher on the totem pole.

“Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”

Matthew 10:39


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