The Practice of Sacrifice: 5th of 6 Heroic Arts

Impossible is nothing

You are going to change the world. But not today. You are committed to questioning assumptions and looking for opportunities. You are committed to being involved at a deep, meaningful, personal level. You are aligning your words and actions with your values, and you are finding the one, singular reason to challenge any obstacles in your way.

But, just as you don't go from jogging around the block to running the New York City Marathon, the hero's journey requires patience, practice, and training.

You are on the right path, and each step brings you closer and closer to actualizing your goal of being somebody who acts on her or his personal and organizational values. A hero.

The last four weeks, we have examined the heroic arts of the Hero’s Question, the Heart of Courage, the Rock of Strength, and the Speed of One. This week is the fifth of a six part series that will assist you in the hero's journey. Zeno Franco and Philip Zimbardo identified the key arts necessary to nurture “Heroes-in-Waiting”. They are: Question, Courage, Strength, Speed, Sacrifice, and Team. Today, we focus on Sacrifice.

In the beginning of the movie Spider-Man (2002), Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) invites us to discover his identity. "This, like any story worth telling, is all about a girl. ... The woman I loved since before I even liked girls."

Spider-Man's story is an exemplary tale of sacrifice. As Harry Osborn (James Franco) reveals, there is nobody Peter cares for and loves more than Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). Nonetheless, in the end, he sacrifices what he wants more than anything else to act on his values.


"I want you to know that I will always be there for you. I will always be there to take care of you. I promise you that. I will always be your friend ... That is all I have to give." In Parker's narration and reflection, he adds, "Whatever life holds in store for me, I will never forget these words: 'With great power comes great responsibility.'"

Throughout the movie, we observe and feel the struggle and tension between Parker's desires, dreams, and goals, and his responsibilities as Spider-Man.

In our world, we exalt acts of heroism as one-time, world-changing events, and they often are. But, we fail to realize that those extra large acts of heroism were preceded by countless small acts of sacrifice, by dozens of medium acts of sacrifice, and maybe even by a handful of large acts of sacrifice.

Each time you extend a helping hand at school, at work, or in your community, it is one, two, or five miles of training. Then, when those small acts of sacrifice become comfortable, mix in occasional medium acts of sacrifice, while continuing the small acts as a part of your training, just as marathoners in training may mix in a 12- or 18-mile run in their training. Finally, when the opportunity arrives to make a significant action based on your values, you'll be ready.

Happy training.

CALL TO ACTION: Identify five small acts of sacrifice that you can do this week. These small acts may be anything from helping a person with a disability, senior citizen, or single parent carry groceries to his or her car, to helping a neighbor take care of her or his yard, to walking a friend home at night.

This month, commit yourself to at least one medium act of sacrifice. You may consider giving 12-20 hours of your time to a charitable or humanitarian organization, or another comparable commitment that is meaningful to you.

The only criteria are:

  • It is a selfless act. That is, you do not have anything to gain by your sacrifice.
  • You give your time. In today's world, our time often is our most precious resource. It can be easy to donate goods or money, but also impersonal. Please give of your time and yourself.