The Lost Art of Sacrifice in the Family
William Doherty notes that family member’s made personal sacrifices to assure their family’s well-being, stability, and overall security in the past. During the 1900’s, this focus shifted away from family stability to individual happiness. Instead of the individual promoting the well-being of the family, the family became a tool to promote individual happiness and achievement. Rather than sacrifice for the family, individuals expected the family to sacrifice for them. With this change, individual happiness became more important than family security. “I” replaced “We.” “My needs” took precedent over “your needs” or “our needs.” Competition over whose needs are most important became commonplace and even aggressive at times. In today’s individual-focused family, when you don’t make me happy, I believe you are holding me back and hindering my happiness. The individual focuses on his own desires while disregarding everyone else’s desires. Performance that satisfies my needs becomes the standard by which family members judge one another. Each person engages in his or her own activities and ignores other family members. Family becomes a disconnected group of people putting up with one another’s irritating behaviors while residing in a common living space. A very sad situation for families.
A family style focused on individual happiness really proves detrimental to the individual, too. Where does a child learn to empathize if the family focus is on satisfying personal needs? How can a child learn the joy of sharing and giving to another person if it is not modeled in the family? Where will a child find the security of knowing that his family “has his back” no matter what if family members are more concerned with their individual happiness and reputation than protecting one another? Children need to know that family members are committed to establishing a safe, secure community in which they can live and grow. So, what can be done? How can we protect our own family from the disconnected, individually-focused family so prevalent today? By practicing sacrifice.
When family members sacrifice for one another, the family focus changes from “Me” to “We.” But why would I sacrifice my needs for my family? Sacrifice within the family promotes a sense of community, commitment for the long haul, and dedication to family stability. Family stability translates to a feeling of safety, security, and peace. Sacrifice also communicates love for one another, value for each person, and a desire to join together in growing and maturing. Sacrifice promotes humility, intimacy, and community.
With those benefits in mind, you can follow these 3 steps to become the catalyst for sacrifice in your family.
1. Become a student of your family members so you can know and recognize their needs and desires. Keep those needs and desires in mind and act on them. If a family member needs quiet time due to a headache, sacrifice the TV for a while and allow quiet. If a family member desires to sit in a certain seat, let them…even if you want to as well. If there is only one cookie left and your sister wants it, graciously sacrifice your desire and let her eat it.
2. Begin to view other family members and their desires as “more important” than your own. I don’t mean to forget your own needs and desires, but don’t place your own needs or desires above their needs and desires. Let your family know that you value them and their needs.
3. Make a commitment to outdo one another in giving honor to one another. Create an environment of honoring one another with the gift of sacrifice. You can sacrifice in little ways like letting another family member get food first at the table or allowing family to go through a door first. You might make the sacrifice of watching what another family member wants to watch on TV or listening to a radio station that another family member wants to hear. These little moments of sacrifice help create an environment of sacrifice, encouraging each family member to think of the “other guy” and sacrifice to meet their needs.