On the surface the words sacrifice and surrender are similar. Something is being given, and it is being received by someone or something. However, the differences are titanic. When you look up sacrifice in the dictionary there are several definitions. The kind of sacrifice most of us feel good about is the one that reads “to give up something of value for the sake of other considerations.” When you think of the word sacrifice it has a positive vibe. It brings up warm feelings of caring and love. On the other hand, when you consider the word surrender, it seems to bring forth feelings quite the opposite from sacrifice. It gives off an air of being uncaring and unfeeling. The synonyms for sacrifice are listed as “to offer up, yield, to suffer, and surrender.” When looking up the word surrender, the listed synonyms are “succumbing to, yielding, to abandon, and sacrifice.” How can two words that can be used as synonyms be that different?
But there’s a more cannibalistic definition of sacrifice that can be detrimental to any relationship, and that definition reads “an act of slaughtering a person or animal as an offering.” Of course this is not to be taken literally, but this definition made me stop and consider that not all sacrifices are equal. This interpretation makes me think of relationships where giving of yourself requires a lot more than just what you are eating for dinner or what is going to be playing on the television that night. Are there times when we are making a choice to forgo what we need for someone else to get what they want? Can we sacrifice more than we actually should and still walk away unscathed? We might not actually see our need as a need, but in fact, relationships have needs just like people have needs. They aren’t all as simple as food, water, and shelter, and we might not fall over if we don’t get it, but it certainly does take a toll on us emotionally if we don’t get what we need. When sacrifice eats away at who we are at our core, then it truly takes on another definition of sacrifice entirely, and this one isn’t one most would boast about.
Surrendering seems cowardly as a general rule. If we surrender, we are giving up essentially. We are walking away, crying uncle, or throwing in the towel. It is ingrained in us at an early age that we should never give up. What a powerful message in a little phrase! It is implied that if we give up, we have lost. If we give up, we are weak. If we give up, we are selfish. To those that have been sacrificing in the more cannibalistic sense of the word sacrifice, never giving up is exhausting.
Surrendering isn’t something we can be proud of doing. It’s something you admit to, not declare. Why is this? Why is it that we can’t be proud of knowing our own limits of sacrifice, and instead choose to surrender? What if someone is going to hurt either way? If you are an extremely empathic person, you hurt because the person is hurting you, and you also hurt when you hurt them. You are never going to win either way, but try as you might, persuading yourself to just give up isn’t the easy thing to do. Waving the white flag on a relationship can leave you wondering what you did wrong, and how you even wound up in the place to wave the flag in the first place. It can leave you breathless, tortured, and fresh out of tears. Surrender is not the easy way out, but people tend to treat it as though surrender is easier than sacrifice.
How many chances are enough when your very soul feels weighted and exhausted? Could it be okay to just put down the tools you were working with and quietly step away? What is the worst that can happen? Disappointment in yourself or from other people can’t actually kill you, can it? And, at what point are people quite positive that you tried everything you could before making big changes? Do people ever think the best of us? What would I think of the decisions I am making if I wasn’t me? Can sacrificing yourself ever be noble, and can anything good come from it? Is it better to sacrifice when your very self is at stake, or is it acceptable to surrender with the best intentions? I guess the only thing left to do is find out. I’m hoping I find that ending up where you started can feel just like going home.