“If you choose to do something, then you shouldn’t say it’s a sacrifice, because nobody forced you to do it.” ~Aung San Suu Kyi
Some people would have you believe that a sacrifice isn’t a sacrifice unless you suffer. “Give until it hurts” is their motto. But is pain necessary for something to be a sacrifice? Must you lose before your sacrifice will “count”?
Are Sacrificers Losers?
The value in a sacrifice isn’t in the losing. Think about it: when in life do you equate value and loss? Value is always associated with gain.
When you make a purchase that you consider to be a good value, you pay something to be sure. But you willingly, even happily pay over the cost because it is worth it. The person on the other side of the transaction finds it to be a good value for them also. You both sacrifice something of value to gain something that is, too you, of higher value.
Some may argue that commerce isn’t a good analogy for sacrifice. So let’s consider sacrifice in two areas where it is often applied (although with the most controversy): politics and religion.
The Sacrifices of War
If a soldier sacrifices life or limb, why does he do it? One common reason is to protect his country. He places a higher value on the safety and prosperity of his own nation or tribe than he does on even his very life. Only a willing soldier can make a sacrifice. Those forced to fight are merely robbed of their life or health.
Other soldiers take such risks to protect an ideal like liberty or sovereignty. Again, they value those ideals even above their own wellbeing. As a result, they experience pride or certitude, a trade off they find to be of good value.
The Sacrifices of Faith
Now let’s look at religion. The Bible speaks in specifics about sacrifices in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. But it also says explicitly that there are things of greater value: mercy, loving kindness, steadfast love, and justice. It points out that rote sacrifice is of no value compared to these admirable qualities.
It also says that giving in willingness is the only giving that has value. What is expected of you is only what makes sense for as much as you are prospering. It is never mercilessly demanded to the point of suffering.
Exchanging Value Is Not Enough
Whether for the soldier or the believer, the point of the sacrifice, the thing that makes it of value is that it is given willingly and given freely. Its value is in that it is not demanded but offered.
The highest possible sacrifice is given without expectation of a return. An exchange may be worthwhile and fair but a gift is of the greatest value. It moves in one direction, outward. It is not done to feel punished or deprived (which would make it an exchange). It is unattached and free.
A better motto for a true sacrifice would be “Give until if feels good.” A sacrifice is a sacrifice when it is not an exchange but a gift willingly given, with no expectation of profit. It results in a feeling of joyful peace, complete and free. The receiver of the sacrifice does not give this peace in exchange rather it arises of its own as a result of the sacrificer’s operating from a place of love and connection.
“What makes a sacrifice a sacrifice? The answer may surprise you.” click to tweet
So make worthwhile exchanges. Swap good for good. But sometimes, when you can, make a free and willing sacrifice. It provides rewards on a whole new level.
What sacrifices have you enjoyed? Tell us about it by commenting below.
Photo credit: Siobhan Bickerdike
2 thoughts on “What Makes a Sacrifice a Sacrifice?”
I find it hard to not get something back for my sacrifices. At least a little appreciation would be nice. I realize it would be better if I could just be one-sided about it. How do I get there?
Here’s the thing: it’s not one-sided to sacrifice without expectation of return. The world has been altered by your sacrifice and you get to live in this slightly (or perhaps greatly) improved world.