Adjusting The Sails Of Life

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails” ~William Arthur Ward

Hermitage Gardens 018


As family members and friends we often adjust our lives and schedules to meet the needs of others. We give up lucrative careers to spend more time with our children. We move to be closer to aging parents. We take leaves of absence from jobs to tend for ailing friends. We become caregivers of loved ones with disabilities or terminal illnesses. We take on second jobs to pay our children’s college tuitions. We lose our jobs and have to spend our savings. Our retirement plans are put on hold due to loss of 401ks. Our children have medical, alcohol, drug, or other problems that incur medical or legal fees. Our grown children move back home. We end up raising our grandchildren. Our lives take unexpected twists and turns. We make adjustments when and where necessary.

When I hear people speak of the sacrifices they’ve made in their lives I often detect a stitch of bitterness, a twinge of regret, a sense of blame. I wonder if they were forced into these decisions.

We make choices every day. Sometimes we trade one thing for another.

When I hear the word sacrifice I think of soldiers who put their lives on the line for our freedom.  In everyday living our adjustments seldom compare to battling for our lives.

The word sacrifice means a loss has incurred, something has been sold below value. What is the price tag for these adjustments we make? When we say we’ve sacrificed our time for someone else are we saying our time is more valuable than theirs? Do we feel victimized? If we’re going to be resentful perhaps it’s a decision we shouldn’t make.

There is a saying that we become the choices we make. Granted, choices and changes do not always come easy. However, we embody the grace in which we perform these actions.

Some people make sacrifices/adjustments/choices/changes I would be unwilling or reluctant to make or would cause me bitterness. Of course, this shows my true colors. Hats off to those of strength and courage. This is not to say I’ve never done things for others I didn’t want to do, nor is it saying I’ve never complained about these choices. Maturity has brought the realization resentment has no place in a life of peace.

Personally I haven’t made any sacrifices in my life. I’ve traded higher paying jobs for ones of less stress and better hours. I’ve also quit working to be home with my children. I decided against a return to college due to financial and time restraints, not to mention stress. Maybe I consider these to be minor adjustments because the benefits far outweighed the losses.

When I make a decision I try not to base it on sides, theirs or mine; if possible I do what I do for the good of all. If that is not an acceptable judgment, it’s time for me to make another adjustment…my attitude. I’m far from perfect, and make as many mistakes as the next guy. However, my attempt at simply replacing the word sacrifice with adjustment brings a sense of calm in the midst of chaos and emotion.

Family requires one to learn how to stretch and constrict as needed. Each of us continually shape thus resulting in changes which necessitate modifications in living arrangements and financial conditions. Doing these things in the name of love certainly makes adjustments more agreeable.

There is a Ghandi quote saying that if a sacrifice causes sorrow it is not a sacrifice as a sacrifice should bring one peace of mind.

When someone requests compensation, does it negate the sacrifice and make it a trade?

Let’s hear from you. What is your sacrificial lamb? Time? Money? Possessions? Comfort? Peace of mind? Was your sacrifice tangible? Do you feel you’ve made sacrifices or adjustments in your life? Do you have any regrets? Do you feel you must be compensated for your efforts? Were your rewards priceless?

32 thoughts on “Adjusting The Sails Of Life

  1. Very true that most of the time these ‘sacrifices’ are letting something go of far less actual value.
    I like the yacht analogy. I recall one time when during a race we saw a vicious buster coming across the water at us. Most of the yachtsmen said, ‘Oh, sheet!’ or words to that effect, and went over like ninepins. We said, ‘Let fly sheets!’; uncleated them to let the sails flap as the gale hit us, and then headed home under reefed sails on a wild and exhilerating reach.

  2. When we “should” all over ourselves . . . it creates resentment, guilt, and bitterness. For that reason, I’m not sure I agree with Gandhi’s quote. I’m not convinced that “sacrificing” ourselves for others creates peace of mind.

    If the “sacrifice” is one we “should” be making (based on the totality of who we are at that moment in time), it won’t feel like a sacrifice at all. It will feel like a reward.

    And we must always remember, “We can’t all be Mother Teresa . . . that was HER job.”

    • Is this the quote?

      “The sacrifice which causes sorrow to the doer of the sacrifice is no sacrifice. Real sacrifice lightens the mind of the doer and gives him a sense of peace and joy. The Buddha gave up the pleasures of life because they had become painful to him.”

      If so, I would rephrase it:

      “Sacrifice which causes sorrow to the doer should be avoided. Kindness and compassion should lighten the mind of the doer and give him a sense of peace and joy. The Buddha gave up the pleasures of life because they had become painful to him . . . so there was no sacrifice at all. Only reward.”

    • I don’t like playing the shoulda, woulda, coulda game. If we feel we are sacrificing we don’t have peace of mind….that’s why I don’t make them. Of course, I do what I need to do in life, but it’s in the form of adjustments. Anyone who feels sacrificed cannot feel happy.
      I think it’s important to be compassionate to others and supportive to our loved ones but, we can’t all be Mother Teresa.

  3. “Maturity has brought the realization resentment has no place in a life of peace.” Your words were so beautiful and meaningful, SuziCate. There is a lot to reflect on in your post today. I would have to say our sacrifice has been money to help our kids out. I consider it a sacrifice because it means we won’t have quite the money we could have had for retirement. As for time spent with the children or anything Seles of that nature, I don’t consider it a sacrifice but a pleasure. As for the money issue, though it was a sacrifice, it was given willingly and completely without resentment. And the children never asked for it. We just knew they needed it.

    • Thanks you, Susan.
      We’ve done that as well.We’re fortunate to have been able to do what we’ve done and only wish we could do more. I consider those to be adjustments we’ve made in our standards of living. We know how much it would have helped us to have had the same done for us when we were younger…and at one time we were helped in a big way and it meant the world to us.

  4. Another very thought-provoking post, Suzi! Interesting, because it made me realize I have never thought “sacrifice” when changes, adjustments, have been required. And I never thought about the fact that I didn’t think “sacrifice” until now. I think my life view is that we do what we can, we do what we have to do, and we move on. Everything has a reason, and someday we will know that reason. Until then, it is what it is.

    • You’ve never thought sacrifice because you’re a caring person who makes adjustments to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. When people walk around complaining about their sacrifices I can only imagine how difficult it would be to find pleasure in the present.

  5. Another thought-provoking and inspiring post, Suzi!

    “Personally I haven’t made any sacrifices in my life.”

    I haven’t either. I’ve made changes according to what was happening in my life at the time, but I wouldn’t call them sacrifices, they were just ‘adjustments.’ Some may have been challenging adjustments, but they were necessary to move forward.

    And regrets? No, I can honestly say I have no regrets. Every choice I’ve made or experience I’ve encountered, had a reason.

    Have a lovely weekend, my friend!

  6. I think “sacrifice” is a relative term. If it’s something we’re giving up and resentful about it, then we’ve sacrificed a part of ourselves and may regret it later. If, on the other hand, the decision is made with the understanding that it needed to be done to better someone or something, there is more clarity and peace about what was given up. I love this quote. But my sails are getting a bit threadbare with all this adjusting!

  7. I stepped off career track to spend more time with my daughter. I’ve never seen it as a ‘sacrifice’, I have always seen it as a choice. And I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Although it means we have to live simply, it sometimes means choosing what bills get paid and which ones don’t. But again, I see it all as choices.

    Life moves pretty fast. You have to be able to be able to roll with it. Growing up, you never knew what was going to happen next – my childhood was a study in chaos. To this day, I don’t deal well with plans that are weeks in advance, I don’t like anything tacked down tight, I always leave just a little bit of wiggle room, just in case. I married a man who comes from a family where everything is tacked down tight, there’s no wiggle room. Our daughter is very much like him, so there are some days when I just decide to pick up and do something and it sets their heads spinning. But they are both adapting, they are both learning to roll with things much, much better than they used to. In fact, I’m pretty sure my next blog post is going to be about how she’s learned to roll with things. I couldn’t be prouder.

  8. We do make choices (good and bad) and live with the results. I believe in accepting that choices I made were never forced on me. I hate hearing people complain “What choice did I have?”. Bull! We do have choices. Make one and make the results of that choice work for you.

    • Yes, we must live with the choices we make, so it’s best to be sure we’re ok with what we choose. “Make the result of that choice work for you,”-I like that, Linda.

  9. Interesting and thought-provoking, Suzi. I think it’s all a matter of semantics. What one might term “sacrifice,” another might call “choice.” We make the best decisions we can, based on the parameters available to us, but none of us have a crystal ball. What might look like a sacrifice — staying home to raise the children in lieu of adding to the family income through a job, for instance — just might be the best thing for all concerned! My parents used to tell me, “You make your bed and you have to lie in it.” I guess that means we have to make the choices, then live with those choices.

  10. Interesting. I like how you renamed it to fit your outlook. You don’t consider it a sacrifice so don’t call it that. Nice. I work at not doing things that make me feel resentful. If that in turn has me appearing selfish, then, “Oh well.” I have seen too many people “look” unselfish only to turn around and be so bitter and resentful EVERYONE would have been better off if they weren’t so “selfless”. I really believe that people should follow their own heart. That way you end up happy and so do the people around you in the long run. If the heart is HUGE and giving and can do so without being resentful — yay! If the heart is less giving and knows when to say no, then they are doing the world a huge favor by remaining true to themselves and keeping the peace and harmony around them. Does that make sense? Doing something then ending up unhappy and resentful is sometimes worse than just not doing it. Of course, as usual your posts are way deeper than just a quickly written comment can do justice to, but this is a nutshell version. 🙂

    • EXACTLY-you totally get what I’m saying! If you do something and have to complain how much you sacrificed, the bitterness show so you should have followed your heart and done otherwise. We should do what is within our limitations physically and emotionally that we feel good about doing. There are times I am very giving and times I am not willing…depends on the situation and people involved…I don’t like to feel sacrificed, but adjustments are a normal part of life.

      • 🙂 It is a great lesson to have learned to know that it is ok to say NO and follow your heart. Lovely post – as usual! A “thinking” post. 🙂

  11. I also don’t feel I have sacrificed much, if anything, in my life. I didn’t exactly regard life as choices though. I would have been better off if I had. My biggest problem is regret at the way I have handled things. Perhaps if I stopped being so hard on myself, I would be happier.

    I love the way you and your readers have described the difference between sacrifice (ugly word) and choice or adjustment. It seems that you all have learned from your life experiences, which have caused you to make wiser choices as time goes on. It’s a pleasure reading your posts, Suzi, and the answers from so many of your readers. I usually go away feeling uplifted.

    • When I was younger I felt put upon if I had to change my plans or “sacrifice” in some way. Perhaps it was having children or maybe just life, gae, and experience that changed that for me.
      Thank you, Sandra.

  12. Trading the word of sacrifice for the word of adjustment is huge. I love that. I haven’t made any sacrifices either. Just some adjustments and not recently. I think sacrifice occurs more with your parents than with your children. The adjustments occur more with your children. Anyway that is how it has been for me.

    I can’t just say how it was for me in a small comment. Your post is inspirational and deeper than anyone can go in comments. An attitude or outlook is deeper than can be explained in a comment. Just like those above, I feel like it is too hard to say what I mean in a short statement. Thanks for saying it true. 🙂

    • I suppose it depends on the circumstances…sometimes we’re put in situations that need to be done for someone unable to do for themselves (re:elderly parents) but yet they are unwilling to bend themselves…they consider it a sacrifice and want others to sacrifice/adjust for them. Sometimes cooperation between parties can make all the difference.

  13. Insightful post, Susan. The Gandhi quote especially resonated with me. There are 2 times where i feel I’ve sacrificed what was right for me for someone I love. There is an immense grace in making those choices. Although I am far from achieving that grace, I keep trying.

    I enjoyed these words very much. It prompted some reflection on some resentment I harbored over a choice I made a few years ago. Thank you.

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