Dying to ourselves

What does dying to ourselves mean? It seems like it’s sacrificial giving of ourselves so that we set aside our own wants and needs in consideration of others. Perhaps there’s a more expansive definition I’m not aware of. If that is what it means, how far do we take it? And what are the pitfalls we must avoid?

One pitfall is that we put aside our own needs, but perhaps this indulges the selfish nature of another person-- a child or husband. Then we have died to ourselves, but instead of helping another person on the path to heaven, we’ve done it to their detriment.

A second pitfall is that if we rarely let our wants or needs be known, we’re really denying other people the chance to give to us and to let ourselves be known by others.

Another pitfall I see is the resentment this can cause in others or ourselves. Sometimes we might die to ourselves but it breeds resentment in us. Or as CS Lewis so beautifully illustrates in the Screwtape letters our wanting to be no bother could actually cause others a lot of bother in trying to accommodate us.

This is obviously something essential to our faith, as illustrated by Christ’s own death, but how do we do it right? What aberrations do we need to watch out for? And how important is it? Quite a while ago I was listening to a podcast with an Orthodox and Eastern Catholic, on another subject, but this came up in passing, and they said that there isn’t quite as much emphasis placed on sacrificing yourself in their traditions as there is with Roman Catholics. I have no way to verify that, but I thought it was interesting.

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This is something I discuss often with my kids. We have a big family & there are lots of opportunities to “die to self.” But in our home we are all huge fans of the “Boundaries” series by Drs. Cloud and Townsend. So. I think it takes ongoing discernment. Our default should be generosity. Kindness. Patience. But giving more and more and more until we’re ready to snap… that is not kind. To ourselves or our family. So I think dying to self is a long game. We build up stamina to be more generous, kinder, more patient, etc. At first we may need frequent breaks so we can give AND do it cheerfully. Later we may be able to give more & longer with less repayment from others because we’ve adjusted.


This is my concern as well. I think if not cautious, we can die to ourselves so much so, that in giving to others, we lose ourselves. I know many moms like that.


I think you defined it pretty well. I added the emphatic above as a major caveat that I think we all need to be reminded of daily, and there’s also an underlying assumption (that scripture and other sources lay out more clearly and explicitly) — the will of God always includes basic care of self. We are to be temples of the Holy Spirit and instruments of God’s love and mercy. Can’t be those things if we’re sacrificing too much of ourselves.


dying, noun (Merriam-Webster)

2. gradually ceasing to be

Of course there is no reason to die to anything that is a virtue, so it must be to die to sin.

1 John 2

16 For all that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but is of the world.

Catechism of the Catholic Church

1784 The education of the conscience is a lifelong task. From the earliest years, it awakens the child to the knowledge and practice of the interior law recognized by conscience. Prudent education teaches virtue; it prevents or cures fear, selfishness and pride, resentment arising from guilt, and feelings of complacency, born of human weakness and faults. The education of the conscience guarantees freedom and engenders peace of heart.

I know many moms like that as well. I think it helps to know ones own personality a bit here. Lots of moms seek refreshment in spas and salons and I just don’t think that refreshes everyone. It sure doesn’t refresh me. It took me years to figure out what I need to insist on retaining in my life to get some refreshment & what other things I can let go of much more easily.

I do ponder nuns sometimes though - do they loose themselves completely?? They are at the complete service of their superior. No spa day for them or opportunity to drink tea with a good book, or walk with a good friend to just vent about the crazy week… :thinking::thinking::thinking:

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I read Screwtape in the late 1900s. Could you refresh my memory on the “not being a bother” part?


I see it only very slightly differently. Jesus sacrificed himself for me. I feel he is asking me to sacrifice myself for him. So dying to self, for me, means being willing to deny my own wants and lay down my life for him, but very often, he may ask me to do this by serving the people around me. I do it for him, and those around me benefit.

I took it to mean the people who pretend at being no bother in a passive aggressive way.

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I wonder if it is the part where they are discussing the mother. At a restaurant or at somebody’s house, she will act horrified if too much food, or extravagant or fancy food, is put before her. And although her requests are simple, she’s never satisfied. She cannot seem to find anybody who can toast a piece of bread the right way or make a cup of tea the right way. She thinks she’s not being a bother due to the seeming simplicity of her requests, but she is actually extremely hard to please.


The Lord told us how to pray: say the Our Father. The more I meditate upon, and seek to pray that prayer, seeking to sincerely and fully mean every word of it, the closer I get to understanding what it means to die to oneself.


Yes this is the part I was thinking of, @GEddie plus the part where they’re all trying to decide how to spend their leisure time, but no one will say what they want to do, and they all try to give into the others, so in the end they end up doing nothing and everyone is cranky.

This seems like a good practice. I will try to focus more when I’m saying it.

Not only nuns, but think of all the saints who in order to die to themselves and show their devotion maimed themselves, whipped themselves, ate poo, poured lye on themselves. I’m very glad those were extra-ordinary circumstances, yikes!!!

This is what I decided several years ago. I would give as much as I could, but only if I could do it with a good attitude. Lord save us from sour saints as St. Teresa said.

That is wonderful.

I suggest the first important step is to .…s-l-o-w__d-o-w-n… It is painful to be in a group of persons praying this most important prayer, given to us Personally by Jesus our Lord – I cannot keep up with them in the typical race to the finish. But alone, we can slow down and actually pray this prayer, conscious of every word, and intending to mean every word that we offer to the Father.

A saint once said, we can tell how advanced a soul is, in the interior life, by how much time he needs to complete praying this prayer.

(I can suggest two books, if you’d like to private message me.)

I really think I have missed the boat on this and taken “serving others” too literally. My mom never wanted anyone to be unhappy. She was very sweet though she wasn’t a Christian. Then I became a Christian and looking at the example of those I admired, my mom and the saints, I thought Jesus wanted us to be as accommodating as possible, while avoiding the pitfalls I’ve listed above.

I think my whole sense of this is kinda warped. I hope the pendulum hasn’t swung to far the other way and I’ve displeased God. I think I’ve sometimes done a disservice to one or two of my kids in this way-- I can see it a bit now that they’re adults. This is a difficult balance for me, and I need to work on it.

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