I am not merely the sacrificial act but a symbol of the very real discipline it takes to do the necessary sacrificing; to stay in place so others may benefit.
Archetypes are recurrent symbols that offer spiritual advice to men and women as we travel the journey of life. This is the tenth in a 12-part series, in which this ancient wisdom is made relevant both to ecumenical (book) religions and to the non-spiritual as well through real life examples and everyday application.
While I highly encourage a spiritual path, as it feeds the soul, this wisdom will resonate regardless because it is within our bones and sinew as men. Twelve is a very significant number in spiritual circles. There are 12 months, 12 signs of the Zodiac, Jesus had 12 disciples, 12 indicates a complete cycle.
As we complete our cycle through the archetypes, we will experience the ancient wisdom offered to us around manhood. Whether you are gay, straight, bi, curious, confused, trans, married, unattached, looking, or fearful, this wisdom has the power to meet you where you are and help you experience the slice of divine that is you, as a man.
We see the dead solder.
We see the man step in front of a bus to save his child.
We see the husband quietly work a job he hates to support his family.
We see a man who cares for his elderly parents because no other option is available.
All of these scenes are replete with deep sacrifice. What do they all have in common? How does that inform our human experience? What does that mean for men? How can we have discernment in this area while being mindful that life is a series of sacrifices?
To gain, sometimes we must sacrifice. It can be hard to balance the need for individuality with the needs of the greater whole (family, group, humanity). It might seem like, as men, we’ve done so much sacrificing in history that we need to take some time for ourselves. While that might have some appeal, the reality is that life asks much of us, and there are challenges to be met with discipline.
Sacrifice is central to manhood. We do it often in our lives in the form of self-sacrifice and self-discipline. Historically, it has been up to men to make the big sacrifices so that humanity can continue. “Women and children first” speaks to the disposability of men that is inherent in our culture. In our modern age, we have the phrase “disposable male bodies” especially when the conversation has to do with police or the military.
This is partly evolutionary—we need many more women to keep humanity going than we need men. It is also a cultural narrative that men can sacrifice more than women–sexist but familiar. It is deeply ingrained in our cultural stories. We stare in awe at the man who seemingly is able to give the best parts of him for others. Some religions institutionalize sacrifice through creating orders of priests/monks who sacrifice an ordinary human life for a closer spiritual life.
The idea of a man making an extraordinary sacrifice to save something dear to him is common among cultures of the world. In the Biblical story of Abraham and Isaac, God tells Abraham to kill his son Isaac, yet at the last moment stops Abraham’s hand from murdering his only son. The Egyptian god Osiris became the god of the underworld and resurrection when he was killed and his body spread throughout all of Egypt for his wife Isis to collect. In Christian doctrine, Jesus sacrificed himself for the “sins” of the world.
The wisdom of this archetype is understanding that sacrifice involves doing what is necessary and expedient even when circumstances are challenging. There are times in a man’s life that he needs to take one for the team and put himself last in the face of others’ needs and concerns. We live in a world that is often antithetical to this idea. Our world is filled with instant gratification and ever-changing and shifting plans with no discipline towards following through or simply keeping a commitment.
The Sacrificed One is a soul experience of delayed gratification and how to give wholly. Some men have a hard time sacrificing their needs/wants/desires to maintain a family or a stable home, while others seem to give so much of themselves it seems they might disappear at any given moment. I’ve watched my Dad do that for 20 years. He doesn’t often think of his own needs or wants. He has sublimated all that to serve his family. Now that 1/3 of the family has moved on (that’s me!), his sacrifice isn’t as needed as much as it used to be.
The Sacrificed One knows that his job is to give of himself so that others can live. He is not merely the sacrificial act but a symbol of the very real discipline it takes to do the necessary sacrificing; to stay in place so others may benefit. He tells us how to work for the greater good and wholeness through discernment.
Discernment is choosing those moments of sacrifice carefully. Take fidelity in relationships for example. Fidelity to your partner is a form of sacrifice because staying true in your relationship is actually sacrificing your ability to sleep with anyone you wish. If you have chosen to give yourself wholly to another person, you sacrifice multiple sexual partners in favor of being with them. For some people this is easy. For others it requires discipline. Even in the bedroom, the Sacrificed One understands the deep needs that must be fulfilled. He is willing to sacrifice his pleasure for another.
Sacrificing your own needs and wants to make sure you have a stable relationship is always a good sacrifice. Relationships are what you put into them. You may want to do something, but if it hurts your partner, takes away from that relationship, or puts in something negative, that is not a good sacrifice. I like this idea when I think about whether I should make a sacrifice or not–I think about how I can serve the whole (family, group, or humanity) through wise sacrifice.
Examples of bad sacrifices include:
- Something that harms you or your family
- Helping someone that won’t help themselves. It can be wonderful to give people a hand up, but what good is the sacrifice if they refuse to help themselves?
- Maintaining relationship that harms you (I think we’ve all been there)
- Sacrificing quality people or time for something that is just a fancy or that may case harm. Focus on quality over quantity.
How do we balance our desire to sacrifice while also doing what we need to do for ourselves? Some days you’ll get it right and other days you won’t.
Man cannot sacrifice what he cannot give. Because it is our nature to over-sacrifice, we need to remember to look after ourselves. My advice on this is simple: do what is uplifting, loving, and beneficial. When you’re happy and healthy, you’re a better son, brother, father, uncle, and citizen. Perhaps you need to sacrifice an hour of TV to work out more or sacrifice that extra 30 minutes of sleep to get up earlier and help your partner around the house. These are the kinds of sacrifices that move the conversation of our lives forward in a real way. That is what The Sacrificed One is all about.
Sacrifice is the ability to step outside of our needs and desires and into a place of ranking priorities. It takes integrity and discipline, but if we can learn how to mold our desires and wants into what is beneficial for both ourselves and others, then we really fulfill our humanity. Humans don’t do well when we live in a selfish way. To be human is to learn sacrifice and to balance between the desires of the self and the needs of the community. This is replete in religion for a reason; it is a common human problem.
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