Thursday, June 16, 2005

Dorothy Sayers on Sacrifice

From Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of the Maker, pages 133-35:
"Sacrifice" is another word liable to misunderstanding. It is generally held to be noble and loving in proportion as its sacrificial nature is consciously felt by the person who is sacrificing himself. The direct contrary is the truth. To feel sacrifice consciously as self-sacrifice argues a failure in love. When a job is undertaken from necessity, or from a grim sense of disagreeable duty, the worker is self-consciously aware of the toils and pains he undergoes, and will say: "I have made such and such sacrifices for this." But when the job is a labor of love, the sacrifices will present themselves to the worker -- strange as it may seem -- in the guise of enjoyment.

Moralists, looking on at this, will always judge that the former kind of sacrifice is more admirable than the latter, because the moralist, whatever he may pretend, has far more respect for pride than for love. The Puritan assumption that all action disagreeable to the doer is ipso facto more meritorious than enjoyable action, is firmly rooted in this exaggerated valuation set on pride. I do not mean that there is no nobility in doing unpleasant things from a sense of duty, but only that there is more nobility in doing them gladly out of sheer love of the job. The Puritan thinks otherwise; he is inclined to say, "Of course, So-and-so works very hard and has given up a good deal for such-and-such a cause, but there's no merit in that -- he enjoys it." The merit, of course, lies precisely in the enjoyment, and the nobility of So-and-so consists in the very fact that he is the kind of person to whom the doing of that piece of work is delightful.

2 Comments:

Blogger ScurvyOaks said...

This is a brilliant analysis, but it would be better yet if Sayers had not set up the Puritan as her foil. The prevailing image of the Puritans in Sayers' day and ours is an inaccurate caricature. (Compare what J.I. Packer has written about "the jolly old Puritans.") The better person for the role described by Sayers is the secular moralist; pride goes hand in hand with those who seek self-justification, not with those who see all of their lives in terms of God's grace. With that substitution, this quote from Sayers dovetails even better with the second Ratzinger quote on happiness.

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