Imagine a woman who chooses to spend her life climbing the corporate ladder. She is quite successful, eventually becoming CEO of a Fortune 500 company. The company employs 15,000 people, all of whom make a good wage and are predominantly happy with their own careers. They produce useful products that have real value to their client base, all of whom are pleased to be doing business with her company. She is productive and well compensated. She is happy with her choice, and her life.
Now imagine a woman who chose not to pursue a career but, instead, to raise a family. Her three children get good grades in school and all participate in extra-curricular activities. Two excel in sports, while one joins the choir and stars in the annual musical. They eventually make it through college and begin to pursue their own careers, or raise their own families. She is a good mother and wife, and feels well compensated by her children’s success. She is happy with her choice and her life.
Which of these women made a sacrifice?
Neither one, of course.
Words have meaning
Both women made a conscious choice to pursue and excel at something she valued more than another; a life choice that meant more to her than anything else. The business woman did not “sacrifice” having a family in favor of a career, just as the mother did not “sacrifice” her career to raise her children. Each of these women made a choice to pursue the type of life that had the greatest value to her. The CEO did not value raising a family, so pursuing her career was not a sacrifice. The mother did not value having a career, so raising her children involved no sacrifice at all.
By definition, the word sacrifice implies enduring a loss. What did the CEO lose? Nothing that was valuable to her, certainly. The mother gained immeasurably by not choosing a corporate career, by seeing her children grow up to be valuable members of society and happy adults. Where does her “loss” manifest? What did she forfeit by being a mom? Nothing that meant anything – to her, anyway.
The feminist culture teaches us that, by choosing a family over a career, a woman is sacrificing her full potential to some arbitrary standard devised by men to keep women “in their place.” On the other hand, right wing Bible thumpers tell women that they are sacrificing their nurturing role as a mother when they pursue a career instead, as if this is the only way a woman may define herself as a woman. Both are ridiculous, and morally bankrupt.
In truth, and in practice, a sacrifice involves giving up something we value for something we don’t. It is not a sacrifice to forfeit something we value less for something we value more. That is merely a reasonable choice based on a rational judgment. If you wish to pursue an Olympic medal over all other things you might choose in your life, it decidedly is not a sacrifice to rise at 4 AM every day to practice; to forego the latest kegger at the frat house; or to eat healthy, high energy food in place of cheeseburgers and fries.
On the other hand, if you believed that getting that medal was the most important thing you could do for yourself, yet choose to hit the local drive-thru every night for dinner, then you would be making a sacrifice – giving up on something that meant a great deal to you for a momentary, petty pleasure.
The popular meaning of “sacrifice” is nonsensical. It involves the giving up of anything, no matter how trivial, to achieve something, no matter how great. It is a perversion of the very concept of value, and of greatness. It denies the efficacy of human judgment and rational choice.
Accepting the popular definition of sacrifice can only turn you into a victim; can only make you the type of person who feels constantly taken advantage of by others – not to mention society at large.