The Meaning of Sacrifice: Words of Wisdom

By Aly Downs

When a quick peruse of the internet for the definition of sacrifice yielded unsettling images of historical sacrificial offerings, I knew I had to consult some of the wisest women I am blessed to know in order to help me put a modern definition of action to an archaic word.  Not surprisingly, I received excellent responses representing a wide array of viewpoints from women across the upper Midwest. It is my hope that their sentiments resonate with you as you cultivate your own definition of what it means to sacrifice.

1. Sacrifice is necessary and worth it.

Putting a positive spin on it, sacrifice is experienced by some women as an essential part of life to be expected and yet celebrated. As one of my friends who is a devoted mom of young boys eloquently stated, “Sacrifice is putting aside significant individual tasks or behaviors to serve another.”  Many women know the significant physical and emotional sacrifices one undergoes to have and raise children (here’s looking at you, Mom!). Parenting can certainly be seen as a sacrifice.  As more women decide to pursue career ambitions (instead of or in addition to family responsibilities), investments in the form of time, energy, and even finances can be experienced as sacrifices in order to achieve something greater: a promotion, a raise, financial stability, etc.  Clearly, to see hard work come to fruition is exciting.         

2. Sacrifice is giving in to let someone else have their way. 

I was initially defensive upon reading that perspective: Do I really have to give in or give up to sacrifice?!  The concept seemed synonymous with defeat or surrender, so I had to dig deeper for understanding.  

 “Sacrifice is giving up something that one values for the sake of someone or something else,” declared another close friend who has accomplished so much in her life despite others’ destructive decisions often positioned to get in her way.  There are certainly situations where we may feel like throwing in the towel, turning life over to fate, or lowering our standards; however, we owe it to our Creator to be actively living our lives in a way glorifying Him.  Thankfully, one of my insightful friends reminded me that even painful sacrifices can lead to what she describes as “a better understanding of and a more intimate dependence on God.”  Ah, redemption!       

3. Sacrifice is a choice. (Or rather, how we choose to view it.)

To be honest, this was my initial inclination in defining sacrifice; however, it may not be the most logical or emotionally-connected option to present. Yet, after looking at the previous perspectives on how to define sacrifice, I thought it was an essential point to make.  As women, not only are we faced with more choices now than ever, we are also called to make a choice in how we viewour decisions and, therefore, how we view sacrifices. Will we choose to see the reward or will we be burdened with resentment and regret? It is my goal to embrace how I view sacrifices and hopefully recognize the rewards in owning my choices. Perhaps this will also lead me to better choices, too!             

4. Love is Sacrifice.

Although none of my ladies openly said this, I believe it is an underlying theme in how they defined sacrifice. Whether it be love of others, your country, your Higher Power, a meaningful cause, or even self-love, sacrifice involves a measure of love.  Echoing the words of the song “The Proof of Your Love” by For King and Country, let your life be proof of love through the sacrifices you make.       

So which definition do you subscribe to?  And more important, why?  Next time you are with your friends, ask them to define sacrifice. You might be amazed by their viewpoints and discover they are woven into the fabric of those you love!       

Aly Downs is a proud fifth generation North Dakota farm girl, occupational therapist, and advocate for mental wellbeing and heart health. Aly is a former Mrs. North Dakota and an ambassador to volunteerism.