What is sacrifice? These days, the word itself seems outdated. It is something that we do not necessarily have anymore. One’s mind might think immediately of human sacrifice in ancient civilizations. A human sacrifice in the ancient world to me has two meanings. The sacrifice of a human and the sacrifice by a human. To brutally sacrifice a human requires everyone else to loose that person. The human not only looses their life but everyone else around them looses something as well. May that be a friend, family member, or partner. What makes a sacrifice so terrifyingly meaningful is that a person gives up something that is terrifyingly meaningful to them. This is why sacrifice has been viewed throughout centuries as the ultimate gift. The use of free will to give a respective diety what was most valued is to give something you love more than yourself to somone whom you love more than yourself.
Ancient Greek has a few words for love. It is unlike in English where there is one word for every type of love (brotherly love, maternal love, friendship love…). In Ancient Greek, the word ἀγάπη or agápē is a love that embraces universal and unconditional love. A love that transcends and persists regardless of circumstance. Regardless of how much must be sacrificed.
Sacrifice not only appears in Ancient Greece. There are numerous accounts of sacrifices done for the sake of ἀγάπη. In the ancient mythology, almost every myth has some sort of sacrifice or another. In the Greek myth about the Minotaur, Theseus is sacrificed by being placed in the labrynth with the Minotaur himself. In Christianity, Jesus Christ is sacrificed on the cross in order to eternally cleanse the sins of all humans. Today the symbol of the cross signifies suffering but also triumph. Mesoamericans, specifically the Aztecs, were known well for their practice of human sacrifice. It is no new concept but yet it seems universal. Almost every culture can be connected to some form of sacrifice at some point in time or another.
A sacrifice does not have to be tangible though. It can be an idea or way of life. In an age where human sacrifice is illegal, it is rare even to find such a sacrifice that is idealistic. This may be because of a steady decline in religious practices but I believe it is because of fear. It is common for a person, when contemplating this word and its circumstances, to be afraid. Afraid that something will be taken from them or afraid that they will have to live without something that is “essential” to them. Those who view sacrifice as merely a loss are those who have never truly sacrificed. This fear is what makes it so valuable and so extraordinary as well as scary. Sacrifice is a gamble. The gamble of the value of the sacrifice brings value to our lives through that very pain and suffering. Something is lost but something is, in turn, gained. When a person truly loves enough to sacrifice for someone they love more than themselves, it is not a sacrifice. It is a gift.