What Sacrifice Is, and What it Isn’t
What is Sacrifice?
So apparently I don’t get to not make a sacrifice, huh? But a sacrifice always has a collector. Who is this collector, and what does he intend to do with my repeatedly sacrificed selves?
Let me offer my most concise, distilled definition: Sacrifice is an offering to what one has no true interest.
In a lot of fictional or fantasy settings, a common trope is some variant of a village or tribe having to sacrifice one of its own members or goods, usually a virgin girl for a yearly or otherwise regular offering to appease a monster or dragon for either ritual or consumption. Another example lies in Seven Samurai and its American remake The Magnificent Seven in which bandits raid a village of its food and resources or they would destroy everything.
If anything illustrates the idea of “pick your damn sacrifice”, it is a command set forth by the monster, the dragon, and the bandit. “I take your virgin girl, I take your food, I take your supplies. That, or you are all dead. Pick your damn sacrifice.” The task of picking a sacrifice to make is completely beholden to the would-be collector of spoils that have anything from a weapon to an army to extort that sacrifice. The objective for the sacrifice is to pick the one that is altogether the least worst case scenario.
We can derive from this why sacrifices become consecrated, and the sacrificial ones are praised. Actually, there are two ways this happens – one is the praise of the sacrifice by the collector, for the victim has died or has been surrendered to serve their ends forcibly; the victim is the perpetrator’s valued creation. The other is by the surviving victims of the sacrificial party, who because of their chosen sacrifice can survive another day…until next year when they will have to pick a new damn sacrifice. In effect, it’s a way to both keep the system going, and to manage to survive the system. Imagine a vicious cycle in which the way to survive a cruel system is to feed the same system. The collector of sacrificial spoils is a vile parasite with inordinate power over its unfortunate host.
If it’s not obvious by now, it turns out that sacrifice is not noble in of itself. Just like the promise of virgins in the afterlife, sacrifice is encouraged to further the ends of the powers that be. Sacrifice is not moral in any proactive sense. Sacrifice is an exchange that purposefully results in net loss for the sacrificial party, and for the extortionist’s unearned gain. To return to the definition above, what I mean by one’s true interest is one of direct aspiration and genuine direction. When you choose to be allowed to live each time while being mugged routinely by a scoundrel, that is not true interest, as no man of real esteem would tolerate the sustenance of that routine in which he has his property stolen and the perpetrator enabled. Sacrifice is a result of a helpless, often tragic, situation.
I can hear this already: if you didn’t give the mugger your money, does it mean you prefer they kill you? They get even more creative: would you rather your children stay kidnapped than give the kidnappers the ransom? Funny how we’re stuck in these set of rules that savages set for us. It is in fact true that oftentimes you are made to make that sacrifice, but we’re talking about a tragic hypothetical situation that shouldn’t have to happen.
The picking of the damn sacrifice is never truly elective. It is forced inevitably by forces of nature that we can’t control and too often by looters, from the small time muggers to those that extort money in the form of taxation. Besides, what makes you think one day they won’t just follow through with their threats even if you did pay the sacrifice? The one you are beholden to is in a special place of usurped power over you, and he sets his arbitrary rules.
You sacrifice to appease, that is, to keep the monster happy in meager hopes that he won’t do something worse. You may live another day, but you have not warded off the monster, neither in principle nor in practice. You saved the village today, but you’ve also sustained the cycle. A true heroic act is an assertive act of living to uphold a value positively. There is nothing heroic about professing to love your enemy, who only values you as a sacrificial means to his end.
Sacrifice is Not Giving
It almost feels sacrilegious to even conceive of giving as having a return by design. The act of giving with no expectation of something in return is considered the purest form of giving, and a force of good. But what is the nature of giving something without the expectation of something in return? You had something, and now you’ve given it to somebody else, end of story. This looks like a loss on your part, as somebody gained.
But you might respond: “It’s not that I got nothing from it, I am glad to have given what I did!”. Why are you glad for that? Is it merely the fact that the recipient has what you gave him, or is it something more? Perhaps the act of giving was not only not a loss for you, but you wanted the recipient to have it. Perhaps you derive fulfillment from seeing somebody gain something you thought he needed. Perhaps the fulfillment comes from a sense of satisfaction that you were able to do provide it. The bottom line is, you’ve gained something. Gain is not just money. Gain is not just a personal favor. Gain is also a value and objective fulfilled.
Self-interest is not in contradiction to your values. In fact, there is a direct connection. You want to see your values applied to the world. You want to make the things you want to see in this world happen. When you are able to make that happen out of your own free will, you gain. When you give freely, you aren’t taking a loss. You aren’t sacrificing, and that is good.
This is not appeasement. Appeasement entails the element of the beholden; the sense of having to serve the world, society, and other people for being other people just because that is the social norm, and people will resent you for not making serving them the top priority in your life. Appeasement is a sacrificial act. There is no joy in merely escaping the scrutiny and judgment by the mob only to be faced with it again as expected.
Giving is not a virtue in itself. Giving is an act towards good or evil acts to yourself and others depending on its practitioners. When you give, give what you will towards what you want to see receive it because it will be a fulfillment to you. Give as a response to your own value system, which does not involve self-abnegation in itself. That’s what giving should be. Giving is not in itself sacrifice – let us dispense with this confusion. However, too many give in a sacrificial way, or preach it. Beware of those that do.
Sacrifice is Not Trade
Let us dispense with another confusion, this semblance of an idea that sacrifice is synonymous with an equitable form of trade.
Looking back at the idea of picking one’s sacrifice, it can be understandable why a sacrifice can be mentally processed like a sort of trade. You select the least worst sacrifice, to attain what appears to be a desired goal, almost manifesting itself as a exchange of which burden to cut loose.
Considering the confusion that sacrifice is an act of giving still remains, perhaps from this we can derive the notion that one sacrifices an item of theirs in exchange for something. But an incontrovertible aspect about sacrificing is that one gives something they value, that is, something they wouldn’t just pass along under normal circumstances. One is compelled to make the sacrifice as a situation is forced upon him.
A real trade, on the other hand, is driven by desire for the exchange. From something small scale like me ordering a glass of whiskey at my favorite bar because I was in the mood for it, to something larger scale like purchasing a synthesizer that has just the right mellotron sound that I want that I can’t find in any other instrument, a trade involves the mutual trade of something they are willing to part with for something they value even more, be it spur of the moment or based on long term ambition.
The entire point of trade is profit – on both sides. When a sacrifice masquerades as a trade, it is a scam at best. One side may profit at the complete expense of the other, sacrificial, side. The only equitable trade is one in which both sides profit on their own terms. The only profitable trade is a free trade. The only free trade is one in which both make the trade voluntarily. One voluntarily makes the trade because they are actively interested in the transaction. No sacrifice is involved. Trade is not in itself sacrifice. If you find yourself sacrificing in a trade, get out of it while you can.
Sacrifice is Not Love
Love, for all the energy mankind has spent on the subject, is largely spoken in terms of how it is an act of service, measured by how much is given and applied to the object of love by the lover. Ever present is the context of selflessness by which love is bestowed, as if a true act of love has absolutely nothing to do with one’s own interests. For all the due recognition love gets as an act of desire, it is then confused by being touted as an act of self-sacrifice, like a male praying mantis offering its head to the female. Perhaps it’s this misguided notion of love as self-sacrifice that causes too many to act self-sacrificially. These men bend over backwards to please a woman that hasn’t even accepted them yet, and no matter how much of his resources are drained it’s still a crap shoot at best if she returns his affections. But then is it proper for a woman to be considered in love with him? What is it that she loves about this man, the fact that he is now bled dry and is expected to provide her some more? If love is sacrificial, it certainly seems like a one-sided sacrifice.
Fortunately, love is not sacrifice and neither side has to perform that to manifest it. Love is an enthusiastic, innocent value response. It is a resonance of value expressed outwards in the real world. It is the desire to bring something more to life than it already is, made visible through human action. Self-sacrifice?! Far from it. Love is the most selfish thing conceivable.
To those that insist instead that love actually is in fact self-sacrifice and that to commit this act for the one they love is the right thing to do, it’s time to look hard at the object of such a version of love, and the beneficiaries of this self-abnegation.
What kind of person wants the sacrificed self of another?
Sacrifice entails loss, damage, and disposal. Sacrifice is a statement as thus: “For you, I hereby cut myself down as a gesture.” If an act of love is self-sacrificial, be aware of what is happening. Can desire and care only transpire at the expense of self? Now that you have sacrificed anything from your time, your space, your money, and your dreams for the object of your love, what possible reason could the object of your love be happy that you’ve subjected yourself to all this?
For simplicity of dialogue, let’s assume that the scenario involves a man acting in his idea of love for a woman, though I suspect most would default to this scenario anyway. He professes to sacrifice himself, and in so doing subordinate his time, his space, his money, resources, dreams and visions in the name of the woman of his affections. He would see this delegation, if not downright disposal, of all that he is as a gesture and symbol of love. Now ask the question: what kind of woman would appreciate, or worse, be enamored with the fact that you’ve destroyed what you did about yourself?
Who is she that finally approves of you if you present a sacrificed version of yourself? Is she not, at worst, a vile and abominable collector of your soul enslaved to her parasitic whims, and at best somebody that simply is not worth it? Who in the entire world is so valuable that you’d not only sacrifice anywhere from a valuable part of yourself to your whole self, or even as shouted in popular parlance, “give the whole world and the moon and the stars” for?
Remember that love in the proper sense is a pure value response. Love is true if it is expressed with the highest honesty and baring of soul, that in no way abnegates itself but instead presents itself unabashedly with no apologies. Likewise, love is true if the object of love is itself unsacrificed, whole, and honest.
In an intimate relationship, love is of an unsacrificed person, by an unsacrificed person. The two are in an intimate relationship because they desire to be, and not to subordinate the other.
When it comes to love in the context of friendship, a true friendship likewise happens due to the desires of the individuals involved. If the friendship takes a turn in which one wants the other to be sacrificial in order to maintain the friendship, then this is toxic. A friendship is freely made, and both sides get something valuable out of it.
Even when it comes to the “love” that a man has of his car or his guitar, we can say the same. The owner of the car is not subordinated to it, but rather, the car is unabashedly a part of his life that he finds fulfillment in. Neither does he try to subordinate the car to himself – rather, he wants the car to be in the best condition as a car, as if it has its own identity. Likewise, the guitarist is not a slave to his instrument, but rather, the guitar is unabashedly a part of his very essence that he finds himself in. It is an extension of himself. Neither does he try to subordinate the guitar to himself.
Men find many such loves in his life. They are happy, mentally healthiest, and masculine with no apologies in this glorious embrace of these loves that are particular to him. This is precisely why must beware of women that profess to love men who have sacrificed those loves and have subordinated to her in the name of “commitment”. When she derides these men as “boys who think they are men” in the vein of Tomi Lahren, she makes clear her intent to subordinate a given man to her parasitic whims.
Love is not subordination. In a relationship in which one subordinates the other, the subordinate sacrifices himself for the other. It’s bad enough when this sort of toxic relationship is more obvious, but it should be more menacing to realize that this is the same kind of relationship that is often couched in veil of “romance”, self-disposability as an upheld aspect of masculinity, gynocentric parasitism off of male altruism, and princesses’ fantasies of Happily Ever After…all done with contented smiles.
It’s time to make the case for non-sacrificial love more widespread and dislodge the notion that love is sacrifice. Any case made for love that involves the destructive offering of the self towards a twisted reaper of souls must be shown for what it is: despicable. Love is not sacrifice.
Featured image: from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:William-Adolphe_Bouguereau_(1825-1905)-_Pieta(1876).jpg