Ezekiel 18:20 “The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.”
At some point in your life, you may experience a situation that forces you to make certain sacrifices. Sacrifice usually requires a significant change in your life, which will likely make you quite uncomfortable.
You may experience a good kind of fear, that encourages you to take a leap of faith (healthy sacrifice), or a nagging fear, that screams at you to run in the other direction (harmful self-sacrifice).
There are some people whose nature is to sacrifice themselves…they keep giving, while genuinely expecting nothing in return. Their life’s work includes making someone else’s life better, without regard for their own comfort or happiness.
They are often perfectly happy to live this way, and more importantly, have been called to live this way. They are deeply rooted in their faith and have been blessed with the tools to do this type of work, while remaining at peace with their own circumstances.
There are others who do this type of work, without truly understanding the sacrifice that comes with dying to oneself to be of service to others. Perhaps there is praise or money to be gained from this, so these become the motivators to pursue such work. They keep giving, until one day, they wake up and discover that they are truly unhappy.
They have no dreams, or personal goals, and no time left to pursue them. They become resentful because they sacrificed their own happiness for others without understanding the reasons for doing so, and now feel like they have nothing to show for their time.
So how do you know when you are making healthy sacrifices, particularly if you are a woman?
In this first scenario, we have a couple who have dated for a while, and plan to marry in the very near future. The man has been presented with an opportunity that means moving to a different city.
This opportunity means higher pay, a better environment to build his skill-set, and a better chance for a promotion. Fortunately, this job is located in a city where it will not be hard for the woman to find equally good employment in her field.
Her sacrifices will involve leaving the safe environment she considers her home, as well as her established personal and professional relationships. She might also be leaving a great job and team, to move to a place where she may not be treated well, or like her job.
We all know that starting over and adjusting to a new culture and environment is hard, even for the strongest person. There are always concerns about fitting in and finding good friends.
But, everything within her is telling her that moving is the right choice and this is the right time to start a new chapter in her life, with a wonderful man. Why do these sacrifices seem right?
Because she has always been faithful and has always placed her life in God’s hands. She makes every decision only after serious and diligent prayer to God to guide her steps.
Despite any fears or concerns, she has consistently trusted God to bless her with only what He sees right to bless her with, in His own time.
This is how she earned her degrees, jobs, relationship, home, etc. Not just through hard work, but through her absolute, unreserved, faith in God.
Then there is a second scenario, under similar circumstances. Except that in this scenario, the relationship is a troubled one. The man often speaks to the woman in a way that is condescending and disrespectful.
Anyone can see that he does not respect, honour, cherish, or view her as a human being and adult who is worthy of love and kindness.
But despite the many red flags, she does not care. She tells everyone that she reads her Bible, prays every day about her situation, and regularly attends church, so she knows she is making the right choices.
Besides, she’s heard it all before…the gentle cautions from concerned loved ones that he is unfaithful, or has the capacity to be unfaithful.
The firm protests that the level of respect, love, and dedication that she shows him is unreciprocated.
The warnings that she is giving up everything to chase after a person who is only concerned with fulfilling his own selfish desires.
And despite that loud, nagging voice telling her not to move with this person or even marry him, she does it anyway. She loves him despite his flaws and does not see a future without him.
Over time, she bends the Bible to prove her actions and unhealthy decision-making. She convinces herself that if God didn’t want her in this situation, He would not have brought her to it. She convinces herself that this is her test, to see how faithful she will be, when God puts her in difficult situations and asks her to make sacrifices.
By making all these excuses and bad decisions, she inadvertently sells her soul. She consistently puts other things before God, and becomes incapable of recognizing mistakes and bad decisions. She continues to settle, instead of waiting for the better things that God has in store for her.
She allows her fears to pervade her sensibilities, such that she believes she could not survive without this man, who isn’t even right for her. She continues to live a life that is an insult to her, and a huge dishonor to God.
She fails to guard her heart and soul, and the devil finds a way to creep in and wreak havoc on all areas of her life. The earthly things that she chooses to hold on to, eventually separate her from God.
When faced with making a healthy sacrifice, or resorting to harmful self-sacrifice, how will you choose? And more importantly, will you recognize the difference?
Linda Githiora is based in Columbus, Ohio. She has an education in Psychology and Public Administration, and a strong passion for spiritual health, education, positive social changes, and transformational leadership.