The End Of Martyrdom


Guest Post: Elizabeth Gilbert

Dear Ones –

I saw this quote the other day Brené Brown‘s Facebook page, and it stopped me in my tracks.

Does this quote resonate with anyone out there? Has anyone else out there struggled with the tricky question of confusing “love” with “putting everyone else’s life ahead of yours”?

Does anyone else out there think this is a particularly pervasive problem for women? Do you see your own mothers and grandmothers, maybe, reflected in this sentiment? Or perhaps your sisters, or your dearest friends?

Have you watched women whom you adore and admire allow their lives to be drained away to the very depths — constantly giving themselves to others — until there is nothing left to give?

Men do it, too — but I think women do it more…am I right?

Have you witnessed the depression, the vacancy, the emptiness, the sickness, and the despair that can result?

Or have you done that to yourself — drained yourself, over-given of yourself, until you can’t even find yourself in the story of your own life at all anymore? Have you let it get to the point that you resent every single one of the people you have put before you? And are you still mistakenly calling that “love”?

Or is the better name for it “martyrdom”?

My friend Iva and I have had so many conversations about this over the years — about our shared sense that the Age of Martyrdom is coming to an end…and that it must end. We must choose a different path. Iva and I remind each other all the time of the vows that we have sworn about our own lives, vows that say: “I’m not going to burn at the stake this time…not for anyone.”

Not doing it anymore.

I will love people freely and lightly and happily, or I will let them go.

I will allow people — especially other adults — to be responsible for their own lives. If other people are falling down hellholes, I will not tumble down those hellholes with them out of some mistaken sense of loyalty. (Compassion does not mean jumping into a pit of flame with anyone.) I will not stand in the fire anymore for anyone, or burn up my life for anyone, and mistakenly call that love.

I have a friend who said recently to me, “I liked you better when you were depressed. I was more comfortable with you then.”

My reply: “Well, I loved you then and I love you now. But I’m sorry — I won’t stay depressed just to keep you company, or make you feel better. I really do love you, but I don’t love you that much.” (Truth is, I don’t love ANYONE that much — because that ain’t love.)

I will not be loyal to suffering — neither yours or mine.

I will not be faithful to dysfunction — neither yours or mine.

I will not give you more than I (safely and sanely) have to give.

I will remember that we must take people as we find them, and that sometimes (as Iyanla always reminds us) we must leave them there.

I will not stay in the darkness for ANYONE, and I won’t allow myself to be manipulated by anyone who feels they must drag me into their darkness for their own comfort…or that, if I refuse to stay in the darkness with them, I don’t love them.


My life is an upward search — moving stubbornly toward the light — and you can come along with me, or I’ll see you later.

I will always take care of myself — because I recognize that if I don’t take care of myself, then I can never offer my useful service or my authentic love to anybody.

I will always work to fill my soul with grace and enthusiasm. Whatever energy overflows from me, I will happily and generously share it. But I will only share the overflow, because the rest of it, I need. I will not drain my wellspring to the dregs for anyone ever again, and mistakenly call that love.

This is the pledge of the End of Martyrdom.

Who’s with me?