“I would die for her”

I saw Pastor Joe preach angry maybe twice — once regarding the literal death sentence. The other time he was talking about some anonymous, particularly good mother in our flock. Apparently she was also a heart-tuggingly resigned woman living a bit of a metaphorical soul-death sentence. Which infuriated the good minister.

Yeah, we all were pretty surprised at his tone.

That Sunday morning, PJ related this woman’s reluctance to take personal steps toward happiness — steps she palpably longed for — because of imagined possible potential “bad” effects on her little girl. “I would never do anything to hurt my daughter — I would die for her,” she’d said. “I would literally step in front of a grizzly for her. Staying the way I am is nothing compared to her happiness.” And then our mild, peace-loving man of the cloth stared us all down and — yes — thundered:

“But do you love her enough to LIVE for her?”


Two weeks ago a friend said — almost word-for-word — the same thing as my former fellow Methodist mama… only regarding a spousal unit rather than a child. My blood ran still and cold. I wanted to scream “nooooo!” But I smiled and nodded. God help me I actually said “that’s nice.” Because, really, how can I argue against such giving, such noble selflessness?

Today — maybe because it’s the Sabbath and I could use some Sunday Schooling! — I sat down to consider how Joe would methodically walk my friend and I through a critical look at our assumptions:

  • We’re assuming that it’s good for the beloved other (son, daughter, husband, wife, sweetheart, best friend) if you sacrifice your life and/or happiness for her/him. So is that true?
    • Would that person be happy you stepped in front of the grizzly? Glad that you lived a life of quiet desperation? Can you think of any ways in which they might not enjoy living with that fact? 
    • Can you know for sure that they will suffer if you don’t die for them?
      • Maybe the grizzly would walk away from your beloved because your beloved practices good bear etiquette BUT would rip you to pieces because you foolishly disregarded your beloved’s warning and brought peanut butter on your honeymoon backpacking trip in Denali. [For example. Hypothetically.]

        “Dude. Really?”
        (Check out deviantart.com for more like this photo by Shannon Kringen by clicking on the image.)


      • Maybe your fabulous large-living would not harm your loved one in the least. Can you think of examples like this?
    • Are you really and truly somehow in a position to know what’s best for other people? [Hint: no. No, you’re not. Which is a relief for you.] Maybe they need a little “suffering.” Have you ever seen cases where peoples’ troubles led them to richer lives?
    • What if — gulp, stay with me here — your current lives aren’t as all-fired great for your beloved as you assume? Can you think of anything your beloved might be FREED UP to do after this dreaded change on your part?
  • Why are you assuming you have so much power over how your beloved’s life flows? Is it possible their own spirit and judgement might kick in and shape their happiness?
  • What if the best thing for your beloved is for you to LIVE — in a way that’s large and rich and juicy and playful and deep and silly and messy and beautiful.
    • Joe had a God-orientation, so his anger was that anyone — including YOU — could hold back one of God’s beloveds — including YOU — from what most honors and pleases God… joy, love, peace.
    • Even if you don’t frame life via the God lens, can you think of how it may help your loved ones to see an example of a joyful life? Or how you living your own business could free them up from worrying about YOU and allow them to enjoy their lives?
  • How did you — or the woman in my church — get this crazy idea to begin with??? Probably from the other ladies in the church or the other hippies in your commune or the other purists in your intellectual agnostic study group or your grandmother or your neighbor. [Or maybe those are just my experiences!] That’s why Pastor Joe was so mad. He was mad that we hold one another to — and judge one another based on — a standard that makes no one happy. And we do it in the name of morality and religion and goodness.


I miss Pastor Joe. He died from cancer before getting the chance to be old. But during that too-short time, he showed his own ADORED wife, son, and daughter — as well as all his grateful congregants — how to live: fully. Because that’s the best thing for everyone.

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