Simplicity is not a sacrifice

My husband and I started reading the book, Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin, and while we are only one chapter into the book there is so much to digest and think about and evaluate in our own life even in the few words we have read so far.  

Being in the season of lent, I thought it was appropriate to focus on sacrifice.  Many people view Lent simply to the extent of it being a time to give up some sort of vice or habit.  We have found it to be a rhythm we deeply appreciate during the year to break up bad habits and regain focus in different areas of our lives.

In terms of simplicity, it may feel like a sacrifice looking from the outside.

However, I am not talking about the sacrifices you must make when adopting a more simple lifestyle, but rather the idea that not embracing a simple life is the real sacrifice.

In his book, Elgin demonstrates this by listing the positive outcomes of conscious simplicity such as promoting fairness and equity among people, finding balance in all realms of life, stripping the unnecessary clutter, distraction, and busywork from our lives, connecting with those who really matter and staying focused on what is really important in life, and living in a way that looks ahead to the future and cares about the generations who follow.  (p. 4-5)

In contrast, he goes on to list the ways in which we make huge sacrifices every day by choosing to continue in a stressful and materialistic lifestyle.

How we are really sacrificing when we are sitting for long hours in traffic away from our homes and those we care about so we can make a living, when we are giving away hours of our lives for a job that is nothing more than just that, and when we lose the feeling of community as we are more cut off from our neighbors.  Not to mention the natural outcomes such as extinction of animals and plants due to our carelessness toward the earth.  (p.6)

Many people will look at some of the choices we make and think (or even say to us), “I would rather die than live without (fill in the blank)”

I thought like this (perhaps not so dramatically) at one point, too.

And there are still things that are hard to “give up”, but perhaps that is because I still retain the viewpoint that I will be missing out on something if I exchange it for a simpler counterpart.

This isn’t about legalism or doing something just for the sake of being different or radical.

This about living life in a holistic way that blesses others and gives us a greater meaning and depth in life.  As I trade in one way of living for something different, I have found greater freedom and time and a feeling of wholeness I didn’t know was possible to have.

My actions may not contribute a great deal to the environment or greater community in the grand scheme of things.  But, for me and hopefully the people around me, life can be richer, more meaningful, and less rushed.  As I tread lighter on the earth, perhaps I am able to leave a little bit more for someone else.

We need to shift our thinking from viewing  a simple lifestyle (not involuntary poverty) as a sacrifice or detrimental to growth, and realize what we are missing out on if we continue to focus on acquiring more and placing value on things that will not last or which may even contribute to human suffering (whether in generations to come, countries around the globe, or even in the places we ourselves live right now).

We are pretty good at turning a blind eye to many of the things we support silently and habitually every day in our western lifestyle, because we are so removed from them.

That is sacrifice.

But is it ours to make?

-b.e.

Further Reading:

Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin

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