In a world of twitter, order-in lobsters, and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, self-sacrifice is a concept that receives very little attention. Quite often, the idea is viewed with confusion, uncertainty, and-quite often, with hostility. Many view the term as synonymous to being a push-over; to allowing one’s self to be trod on by the masses. This is a problem, as it may be true that when an individual tries to practice a life of self-sacrifice, the result will be abuse and neglect. I do not believe that a life of receiving unfriendly taunting is one that anyone should embrace. A true gentleman should be a person who is respected for both his strength, as well as his humility. This means rising to the occasion and asserting oneself when necessary. At the same time, self-sacrifice is an ideal-one that we should not be too quick to cast aside in the light of our modern world.
Often the rebuttal to self-sacrifice is that, even if it is aspired towards-it is simply too dangerous to live now. Unless everyone does it, no-one can. It would be the same if everyone lied but one person-that individual would be tormented at every step. But this is not necessarily true. For my non-religious readers, allow me some leeway to indulge in some discussion on Christ, as I believe Jesus is the perfect historic demonstration of self-sacrifice in a world of hurt and anger. Many people who only understand the basic premise of Christianity are aware that Christ performed what is referred to as the ultimate in self-sacrifice: he gave his own life for humanity. This was and is a beautiful demonstration of love. If this was the story alone-we may be tempted to view self-sacrifice as the ultimate door-matting project; allowing yourself to be completely used and exploited by others. However, there are two very important caveats to the event of the cross that need to be addressed.
First of all, Christ chose to go on the cross. In fact, according to the scriptures, it was Jesus who planned the entire event and hardened the hearts of the Pharisees to ensure that the event would occur. This is clearly not someone allowing another to exploit. Much to the contrary, Jesus was the “exploiter”, and the pharisees were being utilized for his purposes. I am not suggesting that we are to always be in control, modeling Christ’s example in this. But we should not be used as tools for the sake of others-we are to utilize our own gifts. This may be in choosing to allow others to use us, but only if that choice is made by us.
Second, as anyone who has studied Jesus’ life will know-Christ was not a passive man and did not indulge in coddling when it came to presenting his views on life. He drove merchants out of the temple with a whip as a result of their desecration of the temple. This is not the action of a passive man. Yet, despite all this-he is perceived as the ultimate in self-sacrifice. Why?
Jesus chose to sacrifice himself, and he understood that it was necessary only when it was helpful. Self-sacrifice does not mean allowing others to use you simply because they want to. If, for example, you are only encouraging the continuation of bad behaviour-than your so-called self-sacrifice is actually harmful and wrong.
I wanted to link this post into behaviour in marriage, but I think that may be extending it too long, so that discussion will have to wait for next time. But I do believe that self-sacrifice is a concept that is essential to marriage-it is the ultimate place on earth that we can practice this concept. A true gentleman does not look for his own needs, but desires the best for his wife. That is one of the highest marks of a gentleman.
As a final note-it bothers me that the majority of crucifix paintings and pictures are of a really wimpy Jesus on the cross. This is more what I would envision (he was a carpenter after all!):