On Sacrifice

When we hyper-empathize,
unlike when we empathize,
the distinctions
and boundary
between “self”
and “other”
vanish.

So when we feel
the “other”—
be it a person,
a thing,
or an idea—
is in danger,
it feels as if we
are in danger.

This makes it natural
for us to throw ourselves
onto incoming traffic
to save the lives
of such an other.

To us,
this does not feel
like a sacrifice.

It merely feels
as if it’s a universal
human
reflex.

So much so
that sometimes
we think the other
would have done the same
for us.

Whether or not that is true
is beside the point.

Happy Parents, Happy Kids

10 years ago,
my mother
realized empathy with herself
and discovered
that all this time
she had unconsciously assumed
she had to do what she felt
was not worth doing,
only
to make others happy.

Ironically,
once she felt
she was given permission
to stop doing these things,
those around her
felt happier.

Why?

Because
She behaved toward them
less out of the resentment
left over
from doing so many things
out of obligation.

Something similar
happens in leadership.

Some founders I coach
started out thinking
it was their responsibility
to make everyone around them
happy.

A tall order.

Especially so,
because behaviors arising
from the tension they held
from that very sense
of responsibility
was contributing
to the unhappiness
of those around them.

But they needed permission
to invest the time and effort
to manage their own tension.

Because it felt selfish
to do so.

So instead,
they chose
to be strong.

The saying,
“Happy parents,
Happy kids”
is not a permission
to be selfish.

It is an invitation
to journey into
the vulnerable
and creative process
of survival
together
by striving
to be the best support
we possibly can
for each other.

Still a tall order,
but together.

Two Kinds of Sacrifice

There are two kinds of sacrifice.

The kind that feels like one.
vs
The kind that doesn’t.

Sometimes we’re willing to lose what other people judge as “precious.”
because it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice to us,
because we feel it’s worth it.
They may not be able to understand why,
but we do it anyway.

Other times, we’re unwilling to lose what other people judge as “trivial.”
because it does feel like a sacrifice to us,
because we feel it’s not worth it.
They may negatively judge us,
but we stand firm.

To think of loss and value
as something that can be understood and appreciated
without taking into account the emotional component
is to misunderstand and to misjudge
the human condition.