Degrees of Unpleasantness

By Melodious Monk

A sacrifice is not, as so many people imagine, a mortification; it is not something that is meritorious according to its degree of unpleasantness; on the contrary, in real sacrifice, there is a joy which surpasses all other joys, it is the crescendo and culmination of love. -Caryll Houselander

This is an interesting quote from an early 20th century British mystic and poet. It’s difficult for people, even many Christian people, to not view God as an authorial figure who is constantly judging, accruing and tallying the results of our every day. We’ve all been taught since early Sunday school that God loves us unconditionally, and thank God he does. But, do we really take advantage of this gift of sacrifice?

Sacrifice can be defined as: the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone.

I laugh at the phrase that Houselander uses to describe our human viewpoint of sacrifice, imagined as “according to its degree of unpleasantness.”  I know I childishly base many decisions each day on this “degree” of unpleasantness!  What I don’t usually keep measure of, and perhaps should start, is joy.  If true joy is something I desire each day, then a new way to look at sacrifice would be to realize that any sacrificial acts will help crescendo my daily “degree” of joy, and perhaps decrease my degree of unpleasantness!

The Community of Jesus


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