Sunday, July 05, 2009

Selfishness and Sacrifice

Some excerpts from Stephen Howard, "Love, selfishness, and sacrifice," Pilgrimage, Vol. 15, N0. 4, July/August 1989

" [We are often taught that] The only moral alternatives available to us are the `opposites' of selfishness and sacrifice. ... Selfishness is seen as unloving and sinful, and self-sacrifice is presented as the only loving and decent alternative. This poses what seems to be a constant ethical dilemma for us; we are selfish and sinful or we are decent and self-sacrificing.

... envision a bucket of water. We may dip from the bucket and pour water for someone who thirsts. This is a gift, freely given; if we are too self-absorbed to make this gift, we are spiritually poor indeed. But if we continually dip from the pail, doing nothing to replenish it, it soon runs dry; anything further is offered from an empty cup.
There are two ways of preventing the bucket from running dry: we may refill it, and we may limit the speed at which we empty it. ... We refill the bucket when we nurture ourselves or allow others to nurture us, to tend to the needs of our bodies, minds, spirits. ...

We cannot give without end, and we can respect our limits and preserve our spiritual integrity only if we can learn to say no when we need to. ...

In practice, sacrificial people become resentful, hostile, and often depressed and passive-aggressive. They experience themselves as empty and pained, and may enjoy little but their martyrdom. It becomes tempting to fill the void with our self-righteousness, which readily becomes hateful, ...

To care for one's self is to care for one's capacity to encounter, to connect, and to love. The impoverished self can love only poorly, while genuine love flows from nurtured self. ...

... He who goes on sacrificing is trying to pour water from an emptied cup; what comes out is emptiness disguised as love. ...

Love is customarily thought of as a feeling. But feelings are in the area of emotion, and we relate to someone only emotionally then we relate as partial persons. Loving is an act, an act of the whole person, of the self, encountering and connecting and committing."

2 comments:

  1. Hi there...
    Sorry to be disconnected for this long...
    I am reading things; but it's almost impossible to write anything down.

    Be happy.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello!
    long time no post :)
    Good to hear from you, hope all is well ...
    reading is good, take your time, write when you feel like it ...

    cheers!

    ReplyDelete

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