Sacrifice — Good Or Bad?
The familiar call for you to make sacrifices comes from family, friends, religious institutions, organizations, and government officials on a regular basis. If you’re like most people you were raised to think making sacrifices was a good thing to do. But if I asked you if you thought making human sacrifices was a good thing to do, you would cringe and say absolutely not! Yet self-sacrifice is touted as the greatest virtue. But aren’t you a human being? Isn’t giving up yourself to the wishes of others a form of human sacrifice? The only difference is that the primitives sacrificed their fellow human beings to the gods by burning them at the stake while today’s sophisticates use their idea of goodness and guilt to get you to sacrifice yourself to their idea of what (or whom) you should sacrifice to.
What about your own personhood and your own life and dreams? Why do other people’s lives count, but not yours? Why do other people have the right to go after their dreams, but you don’t? And why are we so confused and conflicted over the idea of sacrifice?
What Is A Sacrifice?
Most people think a sacrifice is simply giving up something you want. But we must ALL do that: nobody can do everything that he or she wants to do…we have to choose which things we want to do MOST. We call that prioritizing. If you don’t prioritize, you have no way of knowing what is most important to you and what is least important, so you “abandon ship” and let nature take its course.
Whether deciding between two actions, two people, or two things, choosing what’s MORE important to you over what’s LESS important to you, is not a sacrifice. That is being true to what is most important to you for your life.
But when you choose what’s LESS important to you over what’s MORE important to you, that IS a sacrifice. That is turning your back on what is most important to you for your life.
The things that you want (value) for your life are your VALUES. The things that are the most important to you for your life are your highest values; the other things you want for your life are your lesser values, and the things that are not important to you for your life are not values to you at all.
It seems logical and healthy to pursue your highest values first, but you are taught that to be good you have to give up (sacrifice) what you want for something that “has nothing in it for you.” But that idea of goodness teaches you to act against yourself. It is anti-YOU and pro-ANYONE WHO IS NOT YOU. It makes you the “bad guy” and others the “good guys,” and puts you at war with yourself.
What Is Goodness?
There are two main ideas of goodness. One idea of goodness is to honor your life by being true to your values and taking the actions required for living a healthy, fulfilling, happy human life. But if you are like most people, you were raised a very different idea of goodness: to be unconcerned with yourself, sacrifice your values, and “live for others.” Instead of measuring your goodness by how true you are to your values, this idea of goodness measures your goodness by how much you deny and betray your values.
Not All Ideas Of Goodness Are Good
Any idea of goodness that is bad for your physical or psychological health is an unhealthy idea of goodness. That kind of goodness is more about obedience to somebody else’s say-so than about living a genuinely virtuous life. Giving up something that is more important to you for something that is less important to you goes against all common sense. And giving up the things you want for the sake of “others” amounts to slavery to those “others.”
Sacrifice may sound like a pretty word, but slavery is not a pretty word — and sacrifice amounts to slavery. Slaves are forced to sacrifice their lives for their masters. When government officials ask you to sacrifice for your country, they are asking that you give up what you want for what they want. Some free men choose to sacrifice their lives to others in order to live up to their idea of a “good person.” Either way, sacrificers give up their own values, goals, and dreams — and erase their own personhood — for the sake of somebody else, just like a slave.
Self-respecting men are their own masters. They do not sacrifice their lives to others — and they don’t ask others to sacrifice their lives to them. They knock the word sacrifice right out of their vocabulary. They honor their lives by being true to their values. When they fight for a cause, they fight for a cause that improves their own lives as well as the lives of their fellow men.
Sacrifice Is A Form Of Self-Abuse
Giving up a greater value for a lesser value (or for something you don’t value at all) amounts to not taking your life seriously and slapping your most important values in the face. Making sacrifices by denying your top values is a form of self-abuse and self-betrayal. I have read that human beings are the only creatures that can actually choose to turn against their very own selves. And that is what the ideal of sacrifice asks us to do.
Think Twice When Asked To Sacrifice
Being true to your highest values is the only way you can earn your self-respect, achieve your most important goals, and live a healthy, fulfilling, happy human life. The next time someone asks you to sacrifice yourself to their particular agenda, tell them you must be true to your own mission and wish them the best with their mission. When no one is forced to sacrifice to anyone else, we can each strive for the things that are most important to us. And that is the only way to love living your life.