Relationships, You & Your Family

Sacrificing well

Sacrificing well

As I reflect on the topic of sacrifice, especially in the context of family relationships, let me begin with a simple definition. Sacrifice is giving up something to gain something else. What is sacrificed may be tangible, like giving up your seat on the train for an elderly passenger. Or it could be intangible and the gain could be unpredictable, such as giving up playing computer games in order to study for upcoming tests in the hope of getting better grades.

Motives for a sacrifice can be varied and unclear to others, and sometimes even to the individual. There is also a related notion that the value of a sacrifice is greater if it is selfless than if it is for personal gain. Perhaps this is why we are told not to let our left hand know what our right hand is doing (Matt 6:1–4).

Sometimes, the sacrifice and its related costs is not being obvious to the person making it. For example, a professional pursuing success, who works long hours every day, may be sacrificing opportunities to build close family relationships. They may at times be aware of giving up personal interests like meeting friends or golfing. But at other times, they may be oblivious to the fact that that they are sacrificing time with their family or neglecting to look after their best interests. Not all sacrifices produce good effects for everyone.

On the other hand, there are times when people sacrifice everything for other family members. While putting others before self is usually perceived as good, I have also seen individuals who put up with abusive spouses just to keep the family together. I have seen women sacrificing their careers, friends, their parents and siblings, and even their personal identity on the altar of another’s demands and self-interests.

There are also parents who are overly indulgent and placate their demanding children for fear of losing their children’s goodwill, only to nurture individuals who are never satisfied. Then there are those who dig deep into their savings repeatedly to bail out their siblings from one gambling debt to another. Such sacrifices, although starting out as well-intentioned, produce no good end.

We should, however, be thankful to God for His example of what it means to sacrifice well. God Himself paid the ultimate sacrifice for the ultimate end—our salvation. He knew the exact cost and was fully ready to pay the exact price. However, we will never be able to fully repay such a sacrifice. But we may, in following Him, be willing to sacrifice for others’ sakes; to give without thought of our own gain. And to have the wisdom to give well—to give and not to hurt ourselves or others in the process.

Benny Bong has been a family and marital therapist for more than 30 years, and is a certified work-life consultant. He was the first recipient of the AWARE Hero Award, received in 2011, and is a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.