Life is sacrifice. As we go through life, we tend to give up something for another. Whether we are aware of this or not is another story.
The practice of sacrifice is found in the oldest human records and is common to most religions and cultures. Our ancestors used to offer animals, plants, material possessions or human life to deities in exchange for some gain or benefit. As such, the act involved the surrender or destruction of something precious for the sake of attaining or retaining another that enjoyed a higher value - material or otherwise. Somewhat surprisingly, or perhaps not, the Latin origin of the verb sacrifice means to make something sacred.
Joseph Campbell’s explanation of marriage in terms of sacrifice is noteworthy. Campbell states that the main objective of marriage is not the birth of children or the raising of families. He invokes the image of marriage as being an ordeal in which the ego is sacrificed to a relationship in which two become one. This, he states, is a mythological image that embodies the sacrifice of the visible for a transcendent good.
On this, Campbell does not depart much from Iris Murdoch. Murdoch says that god can and should be found in the ability of one human being to fully and unapologetically accept another.
It is difficult to imagine life without sacrifice. We give up from and of ourselves to support, elevate and nurture the existence, maturation and prosperity of another, or some other - a partner, child, business relationship, friend, protégé, country. In doing so, we lose and give up not only privileges but cherished items like our time on this earth, our energy, reserves of patience, tolerance and love, in the hope of attaining that transcendent good - or finding god. And sometimes we succeed at this, but many times we fail.
And when we fail, perhaps we will not miss what we sacrificed and lost in the immediate. But once we reach another fork in the road and we have to take a new turn in new company (personal or professional), our accumulated losses become theirs; they bear part of our cross and we part of theirs.
Sometimes, what does not kill you does not make you stronger; it makes you a different person, with less and more to offer. And it is the latter that makes all the difference.