We can do better than our present leaders, and nearly everyone seems to understand and sense this fact.
But we’re never going to have good leaders in this country unless or until the majority of us question the basic premise that sacrifice is noble.
Sacrifice means, in plain English, giving up what’s profoundly important to you for the sake of another, and for no other reason.
A lot of people use the term ‘sacrifice’ in the sense of delaying gratification in the moment to achieve something ultimately more important to you, but, strictly speaking, that’s not sacrifice. Sacrifice means giving up for the sake of giving up. Sacrifice means self-denial because it’s denial, and because fulfillment of the self is morally wrong, and impairment of the self is morally right. I challenge you to find anyone who favors self-sacrifice who actually practices it. It’s easy to impose the ideology of self-sacrifice on others, either via political force or moral intimidation; it’s impossible to practice it consistently.
If you really take your Christianity (or equivalent altruistic ideology) seriously, then you have to give up your life for the sake of others. That’s what we’re all told we’re supposed to do. Most of us don’t do it — since it’s plainly impossible, even insane — but the majority of us feel guilty for not living up to what we feel we’re supposed to live up to.
As a result, we do really dumb things like listen to politicians who tell us, in effect, “Shame on you for not being selfless. Don’t worry. I’ll pass this or that program, and then you’re off the hook.”
That’s what both socialism and religion are, after all: A way to feel less guilty. But the error in this line of thinking is that you have anything to feel guilty about, in the first place!
Some eschew socialism in favor of old-fashioned religion, but the error is the same. It’s the error of “original sin,” which simply means that you’re guilty for wishing and attempting to survive and flourish. They don’t put it that way, but that’s really what it is. It’s feeling guilty not because you actually did something wrong, but because … well, just because.
Psychologically, this is what power mongers, do-gooders or other types of mental abusers “cash in” on. It happens not just in politics or religion, but in families and relationships, or workplaces, as well. If ever you hear of someone being taken advantage of, and you can’t understand why they allow it, then unearned guilt is most likely the reason. And unearned guilt is created and fostered by the toxic idea that “self-sacrifice” is noble.
If we want better leaders, we’re going to have to choose better ones. But even if we choose better leaders who reject the ideology of self-sacrifice, we’re going to have to challenge our own deeper premises—and allow these leaders to do what’s really right for us: set us free.
This is painful and difficult for some. For many, it’s painful and difficult to even think about all this. It’s too hard, it’s too deep, or perhaps it’s seen as a pointless luxury.
But ideas have consequences. Your mind is full of ideas whether you care to recognize them, or not. It’s best to identify what those ideas are, and make sure those ideas make sense before you take any further action based upon them.
The false and illogical idea that self-sacrifice is “virtue” is killing us — socially, politically and (in most cases) individually and psychologically. It need never have been so. Wake up, shake off the falsehoods and watch the world and life as you know it really take off.
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