Willing to Make Sacrifices for Others: The Reality of Motherhood
Motherhood in its physical sense is a powerful force of nature. When a woman discovers she is carrying life within her, she is filled with two competing emotions: joy and fear. She is joyful, in awe of the creation that is growing within her. And she is fearful, because she knows that the fulfillment of this growth is a painful birth.
Fortunately for the human race, the fear of childbirth is one of the first sacrifices a mother makes for her child. She sacrifices that fear in order to give her child life. Motherhood is full of such sacrifices, though not all of them on such a grand scale.
A mother sacrifices the music she would like to listen to in favor of her child’s request. She going to lunch with a friend to stay home with a sick teenager. She flies across the country to help her daughter deal with the realities of deployment, sacrificing time and events with her spouse and other children. She denies wanting the last piece of pie.
The sacrificial spirit of motherhood is a spirit of giving. Each sacrifice that a mother makes becomes a gift for the person she loves. Gifts of time, of attention, of life, even of pie.
Who do I make sacrifices for? What is one thing I can sacrifice so that someone else will benefit?
Able to Love without Requiring Love in Return: Real Life
How do we do this in real life? How do we love someone without expecting them to love us back or at least expecting some kind of good return on our investment?
For starters, love is a choice. We are conditioned from an early age to associate love with good feelings, of warmth, hearts and red roses. When we understand love in this way, the focus is inward – it’s all about me and how I feel loved. We will never be satisfied with this kind of love.
The love that does not need anything in return is a much deeper, harder and more profound love. Rather than a love of self, this kind of love stretches beyond us and reaches to the other person. This selfless love seeks first the comfort, health, nourishment and safety of the other person, setting their needs above your own. A loving choice places someone else in the center of your focus, rather than yourself.
Think of someone who has shown you this kind of love, a love that put your own needs before their own. Reach out to them if you are able and thank them.
Able to Love without Requiring Love in Return: In Church Tradition
Very simply, love is choosing to put another’s needs before our own. The First Letter of John says,
If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? – 1 John 3:17
Everyone knows the iconic man, who is merry, jolly and bright, and the joy he brings to children across the world. There is a story about St. Nicholas, aka Santa Claus, that beautifully demonstrates this kind of love.
Nicholas lived in the 300s (fun fact: he attended the Council of Nicea in 325 C.E. which is when the Church formalized our understanding of Jesus’ relationship with the God the Father and officially formulated the first part of the Nicene Creed – the statement of faith we still say to this day at Mass). In those days, a father had to produce a dowry, money or some other possession of value, that would go with his daughter when she married. No dowry = little chance of a husband. The father in our story was poor and had 3 daughters. Nicholas heard of this situation and had the means to fix it. On three separate nights, he tossed a bag of gold coins (some legends say a ball of gold) into an open window, allowing the girls to have enough money for a respectable marriage.
Nicholas had two options. He could have called the father to his home and graciously bestowed the money. He could have made a public spectacle of the event, showing off to everyone what a kind and generous person he is. But, Nicholas heard well the admonishment of Jesus:
“[But] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them;otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. – Matthew 6:1
Is it easier to do acts of love when others are watching? How can I more freely act in love without looking for praise or recognition in return?