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Giving vs. Sacrifice (There's a Big Difference)

September 25, 2012

Did you know there is a difference between giving and sacrifice? Many of us don’t. Our intention is to be in the world as a giving person, but when we are sacrificing ourselves, giving is left out of the equation! To truly give is to receive; and to sacrifice is to, well, sacrifice. Let me explain what I am talking about.

To give comes from a place deep within us that wants to share what we have with another person. The quality of giving is not, “I’ll go without so you can have,” but is more like, “I have something I’d like to share with you.” The act of real giving evokes a sense of receiving at the same time—it is very enjoyable to share what we have with others, especially with the intention of helping another person out. There is always a felt sense of abundance for both people during the act of true giving.

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And why is it that we feel like we receive when we give? Because essentially we cannot separate the experience we feel within ourselves from the experience felt within others. We believe that we are way more separate than we actually are—our eyes tell us we are separated by bodies and distance; but the truth is what is felt within people we interact with mirrors what is also within ourselves. Therefore, when you give and the other person receives, you create an experience of receiving within yourself.

I am sure you have felt this experience before. Perhaps you’ve had the opportunity to be of service to another—to offer something to someone who is in need, and you leave the experience feeling so full. This is giving. You receive. Always. You can’t have one without the other. Giving always makes you feel really, really good.

Many of us confuse giving with sacrifice, which is something entirely different. If you are “giving” without the sense of simultaneously receiving, then this is actually called sacrifice. Again, because what we do for ourselves is also what we are doing for others—when we self-sacrifice, the other person always ends up getting sacrificed too! I’ll explain.

Many of us give and give and give, thinking we are doing the “right” thing—thinking that we are being of “service,” but also secretly hoping that we will receive for our acts of “service” sometime in the future. Unfortunately, when we “give” this way, the sense of receiving doesn’t come; instead, we burn out. I know that the intention behind this I-thought-I-was-giving is good—that you really wanted to offer yourself to help another. But here is the truth: When you sacrifice yourself, you sacrifice the other. That’s it. There is no such thing as you sacrificing yourself for the good of the other; they always get sacrificed too.

Why does the other person get sacrificed when you sacrifice yourself? Because when we sacrifice ourselves it always leads to resentment and inevitably, selfishness. When we sacrifice, then we eventually grow angry—the feeling is: “Who is looking out for me? I give and give and give and drain out! I’m left with nothing!” And yes, that’s true—but you did that to yourself. You end up getting angry at the other person for something that you, in actuality, have done to yourself. When we sacrifice ourselves, then we feel sacrificed—and then we blame the other person for “making us feel” that way! No one can make us feel a certain way. If you sacrifice yourself, then there is no escaping feeling sacrificed, and eventually resentful. It’s not a pretty sight for anyone involved!

Well, why are we sacrificing instead of giving? Because sacrifice is a thing of the ego and giving is a thing of the Soul. The ego is the part of you that interprets the world through separation—it does not believe that what we do to ourselves we also do to others. The ego interprets the world through lack, not-enough, and fear. And it is from the ego-mind that we sacrifice. When we believe that we are not enough to begin with, then we give more than we feel comfortable with. It’s like saying, “here’s a little extra, to make up for what I lack,” or “here’s a little extra, I hope you like me.” The part of us that feels incomplete then feels like it needs to give more. This is your ego.

On the flip side, giving is an act of the Soul. Giving, generosity and being of service come from our own sense of fullness—“I have, therefore I give” (not “I don’t have enough, therefore I give more”). When we are in more consistent contact with our own fullness, then we are able to give to others in a much more beneficial and profound way. Giving from your own greatness is what it really means to be of service. Make sure you are in contact with your “enoughness” before you start giving away. Catch yourself when you are “giving,” but it doesn’t feel good—and call it out for what it is: sacrifice! And stop doing it. You and your relationships will benefit greatly from this simple shift.

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Shelly Bullard, MFT
Shelly Bullard, MFT

Shelly Bullard, MFT, is a marriage and family therapist with a holistic and spiritual approach to relationships. She has worked with thousands of clients on improving their relationships with others and themselves, and she's also the instructor of the popular mindbodygreen courses How To Become The Most Attractive Version Of Yourself and How To Attract A Partner.

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