Discussions about sacrifice are all over the place in the Catholic blog-world during Lent, but I see something a little off sometimes – especially when discussing non-Lenten sacrifices. Those sacrifices we are called to make out of Charity for the spiritual or physical good of others that we all face regularly. Women, myself included, are often tempted to over-give. We give of ourselves beyond our physical limits, and I’m not convinced it is always because the sacrifice was truly necessary but because we felt we were expected to do so.
Part of making a good sacrifice is having a proper discernment of what is needed in reality. I have found so many women, again myself included, making sacrifices that assume a reality of being a lone-ranger. That I, and I alone, can carry this burden. Maybe that’s true, but I have found the vast majority of the time it is not. Making a sacrifice that is truly ordered toward the good involves seeing ourselves and the person we are serving in the full light of reality.
One of the temptations I fall into is sacrificing a good before I sacrifice a vice. Preferring to sacrifice sleep, regular meals, and prayer time, instead of ridding myself of vices, makes my sacrifices into mere covers for vice. It can make me feel like I am sacrificing for the greater good when, in reality, I am staying still or even falling backwards spiritually.
But there are so many REASONS for sacrificing those goods!
“I haven’t had a full night’s sleep this week because the toddler keeps waking up every two hours.”
“I don’t have time to eat a full meal – everything on the go or there is not enough time in the day!”
“I know I should pray more, but I just get too busy with work.”
Yes, it feels like you are just dealing with your season of life, a busy period, or being a dedicated mother, but what is happening to your soul? Failing to care for our legitimate bodily needs is spiritually dangerous. Sleep deprivation does terrible things in a surprisingly short span of time, and is not an insignificant player when struggling to handle vices like pride, anger, and acedia.
There is a pride in insisting on carrying our burdens alone that hurts more than just ourselves. Not asking for help, or allowing others to help, denies others their own opportunity for holiness. The building of virtue only occurs through practice – and that applies to the toddler learning to put toys in the correct bin during clean up time just as much as the father learning to diaper the squirmy baby. Not holding on to each and every burden as our own is not just good for us, but is good for the spiritual growth of your neighbor!
Through this Lent, I am working towards embracing the sacrifices that are truly mine to bear, but also seeing my sacrifices in reality. Allowing them to be a practice toward virtue, and allowing my neighbor to embrace their own opportunity for holiness.