A good friend of mine once told me that every soul is for sale. He said it’s just the way the world works, that we do what we can to stay whole but sooner or later, we let pieces of ourselves go in exchange for what we need. It’s a matter of survival, he said.
His is a cynical view of the world but, after years of reflection, I think he’s right.
To get ahead, we all have to make sacrifices. We give up on one thing in order to gain another. Some sacrifices are small; others much larger. We let dreams die in order to put food on the table. We bend our ethical beliefs in order to achieve the next great thing. We let go of who we are to become who we think we need to be. And often, we don’t know we’ve gone too far until we look in the mirror and hardly recognize the person staring back.
A new friend recently asked me where I draw the line and the question overwhelmed me at first. If sacrifices are an expected part of life, how do you know when a sacrifice is too big? Or, a more heartbreaking version of the same question might be, what part of the soul is expendable?
The question has weighed on me for days. The idealistic side of me wants to shout from the rooftops that every piece of my soul is sacred. I want to demand that who I am is non-negotiable and the world must simply adapt. But my realistic side, the one who keeps a budget and manages deadlines and wants to please her clients, knows that compromise is the name of the game. I’ve already quieted pieces of my soul, strangled them to nothing more than a whisper. I’ve done so in exchange for things I deemed of higher value: freedom, love and yes, even money. There have been times when a piece of my soul seemed such a small price to pay.
And yet, I know my limit. There is a point at which I will no longer sacrifice. It can only be described as a feeling. It exists so vividly in my mind, so clearly that it almost scares me to describe. I’ve been there. I’ve given too much and had to take it back. I’ve collected scattered pieces of my soul, taped them together like a torn photo, and tried to make them whole again. It doesn’t work, I tell you. You can find most of it right where you left it. But it’s never the same. You are never the same. The pieces don’t fit together perfectly. There are fragments forever missing. And those little cracks…they are the lines we draw for ourselves, the ones we learn to never cross again. They are reminders of what it really means to sacrifice too much.
I do believe even the most righteous person would trade a piece of his soul in exchange for the right gift: a kiss from a distant lover, a moment with his buried father, a chance to live a dream. There is a price for every soul. As much as you may hate to hear it or think it, I believe even you would be willing to give up everything you believe in for that certain something.
It is your duty, as the protector of your soul, to make wise choices. No one can tell you where the line lives. You must be ruthless in your negotiation. Confront the reality that exists within you. Be not deceived by idealistic notions. Yes, your soul is precious. But you’re not a bad person should you cross that line once in a while. Just take a step back, pick up the pieces, and figure out what it’s all worth to you.
Photo Credit: Alesa Dam (Flickr)