“It wouldn’t be much of a sacrifice if it wasn’t difficult, now would it?”
– Sir Lieutenant Hugh Madigan, Into the Storm
The Malcontents, by Larry Correia
The exact context of this quote involves a sermon which one of Madigan’s more religious subordinates was giving about sacrifice, and how noble and right it is to make a necessary sacrifice so long as one is choosing it freely, of their own will, rather than being forced to do so. Madigan uses this very ideal to urge the man to make a sacrifice of his own, in this instance correcting a behavior which is born from a desire to do good and be righteous, but which the man takes too far in the wrong circumstances. It is counterintuitive to him to rein in that impulse, but he learns to moderate himself, so that he can do something more urgently important. It is difficult, and it is a very real sacrifice partially because of that very difficulty.
Easy sacrifices are not sacrifices, they are statistics. They are investments which may or may not yield the return one desires. They are the numbers that those at the top look over and may not even care about. “We gave this much money, this many casualties, this many fatalities, what did we get for it?”
I recall the story of the widow’s mite, where a number of rich people were very publicly displaying the amount of gold they gave to a worthwhile cause, so they would look good, but an impoverished widow gave the very last bit of coin she had. The raw quantity of her sacrifice might have been far overshadowed, but the quality of it was far greater. It would be like the rich men giving literally everything they had, all of their riches put together, which, one rich man was given that exact test and sorrowed at the mere thought of it.
It’s not the size of the sacrifice which makes it count, but what it truly means for the person giving it.
If I suddenly won a billion dollars from the lottery and gave away all except a few million with which I would live in luxury, that could hardly be called generous, could it? It wouldn’t be money I had any attachment to by earning it, it wouldn’t be costing me anything to give it, and it wouldn’t be the slightest bit difficult for me, considering I’d never live long enough to spend it. If, on the other hand, I kept that money, and invested it, alongside my time, effort, and passion, in businesses which could improve the world, provide jobs, and assist the impoverished, now that might be a sacrifice. Might.
In a more realistic scenario, I find that it is the smaller, more personal sacrifices which are more difficult. As I strive to argue less, for instance – much like Madigan’s subordinate – despite my passionate, combative nature. As I swallow my temper and my pride, which have ruled me far too often and gotten me into trouble. As I try to be there for the people around me when they need me, though it is bothersome and inconvenient and all I really want to do after work is sit and do nothing. As I try to fix my countless flaws, little by little, apologizing when I do wrong and trying to forgive those who have wronged me as well. As I contemplate what stories are truly worth keeping, sharing, or even consuming in the first place, with the precious time we have in life. As I try to smile even when it hurts, to cheer and comfort someone who may be better or worse off than I. As I consider ways to improve myself which involve doing difficult things.
Everything that I give is something of mine. My own time, my own resources, my own bad habits. These are things which are difficult to give, because I am attached to them, and it costs me something I value to give them up. When that is part of the scenario, then we are on the right track for what qualifies as a real sacrifice.
Then we can say, at least to ourselves, that we have given something worthwhile.