THE ART OF AGING – Part XV: Sacrifice in a World of Me

We must examine the nature of actions, namely how we ought to do them; for these determine also the nature of the states of character that are produced.Aristotle

acrifice… not a word we hear often except perhaps at Remembrance Day, that unique time each year when the word pops up here and there as older adults try to impress upon the young how important it is to remember why we enjoy the freedoms we do in our land of democracy.

Even then, honouring our war heroes isn’t such a big deal anymore. Remembrance Day events are shorter each year, and those who sacrificed for our freedoms are now but legends kept alive by a loved one or two. A private ceremony, a plaque on the wall, a medal of valour… if we do want to really ‘go all out to remember’ those sacrificial war veterans, we watch a movie about some courageous feat.

Cambridge Dictionary defines sacrifice as giving up something that is valuable to you in order to help another person. Of course, the definition also includes to kill an animal or a person and offer them to a god or gods, a definition what we tend to think of more commonly when we hear or use the word ‘sacrifice’.

So, why is it that the word ‘sacrifice’ is seldom used today? Political correctness? Our need to avoid ugly thoughts such as killing a baby for a deity? Or better yet, our consumption of self to the point where we can’t imagine giving up something we value for the sake of another?

Perhaps we have sacrificed when caring for our children, when giving up a flourishing career for family, by supporting a loved one financially when those extra dollars would have made our own life better, or perhaps when leaving the comforts of Canada to work with the underprivileged in any one of the difficult pockets of despair this world has to offer.


SUPPORT Venice, Italy
— Sculptor Lorenzo Quinn
— Sculptor Mario Irarrázabal
HAND BRIDGE Venice, Italy
— Sculptor Lorenzo Quinn

Altruism / Generosity

(Natalie Merchant – Kind and Generous)

Perhaps we truly have experienced altruism—we’ve been motivated by a desire to benefit someone other than oneself for that person’s sake. Source  We’ve been willing to do things that were advantageous to others, even when we were at a disadvantage in the process. Source

There’s an upside to being unselfish! Research shows the altruistic to be happier, healthier, and to live longer. Source Psychologist Dr. Jessica Myszak says that altruism “is often considered one of the defining characteristics of what it means to be human”. Source  

Best not to get all pumped up if you’re viewing yourself as human and therefore, altruistic. Experts believe that some of us may appear altruistic, while self-interest is what really drives even our noblest action. Source

We can learn the tangible meaning of altruism from the Maasai tradition of osotua on the Serengeti Plain in eastern Africa—

Anyone in need can request aid from their network of friends. Anyone who’s asked is obliged to help, often by giving livestock, as long as it doesn’t jeopardise their own survival. No one expects a recipient to repay the gift, and no one keeps track of how often a person asks or gives. Source


I LOVE MYSELF by The Wannadies

Are the abundance of selfies as shared online at all reflective of the narcissistic personality? Perhaps, according to some researchers.

Whether applied accurately or not, narcissism is a term used frequently by many who have a level of disdain for those who on social media display the numerous aspects of their daily lives—one’s personal Reality TV Show, it might be said.

Do those who are into selfies have a bloated sense of entitlement, an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration Source, a desire to be the center of attention, an expectation of special treatment reflecting perceived higher status? Source If so, according to medical experts, this is considered a personality disorder, a mental condition—obviously something not to be ignored.

Indeed, there are people who share online aspects of their lives that include photos of themselves, doing so with an earnest desire to transmit info to those deemed worthy in their lives. My thoughts go to a friend currently teaching in the far yonder of Canada’s northern frontier. She recently became a grandmother and now thrives on the pics her daughter posts on Facebook, the photos helping her to feel a touch of home with her loved ones.

Psychologist Jean Twenge says that recent generations are. . .

. . . infected by narcissism, that permissive parenting, celebrity culture and the internet are among the causes of the emerging narcissism epidemic… Telling children they are special to build self-esteem can foster narcissism… Narcissistic students tend to have poorer results and are more likely to drop out because they think they don’t have to study because they are already smart… It’s delusional thinking. Source

Dr. Larry Rosen’s research on iDisorder shows that people of all generations who spend more hours a day using certain media, including being online, sending and receiving e-mails, instant messaging, texting… are more narcissistic. Rosen says that the amount of time one spends on social media is an accurate predictor for narcissism, and often because of FOMO, the fear of missing out. Social media provides a stream of everyone’s happiest moments. Source

With respect to altruism and why people make sacrifices for others, our brains show greater activity in regions associated with feelings of empathy, pleasure and socially rewarding states, like maternal love. Acts of costly altruism are more strongly associated with feelings of compassionate concern than with a selfish need to relieve one’s own distress. Source

Aristotle distinguishes pleasure (the feeling of happiness) from human flourishing or “eudaimonia’’ (the state of having fulfilled your potential and living well).  Aristotle thought pleasure can be fleeting, and even individuals whose lives were going quite badly might have pleasure.  Only flourishing is pursued for its own sake—it is the goal for all of our lives. Source

Self-sacrifice is the sense that one lives by doing things one does not particularly want to do, by putting fears and doubts to one side, by weighing immediate comforts against the possibility of larger, even intangible, comforts. Make altruism a lifetime habit. Selflessness helps us to identify and connect with other people, and it boosts our ability to work well with others.Joan Didion

Learn more…




Arrow & the Song
May the Road Rise to Meet You
Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen
Looking Back
Can’t help Lovin’ That Man
Young As The Spring
Danny Boy | Too-Ra-Loo | How Ireland Got Its Name
ROSE in a BROKEN BOTTLE – Adult novel based on a true story
NINE GIFTS- with Study Guide
THE CURSE – with Study Guide
RUSH of the RAVEN’S WINGS – Youth short story with Study Guide
NO PASSPORT FOR ÉTIENNE – Short story inspired by true events
THEFT OF BABY ILY – Short story inspired by true events
MYSTERY of the SINGING GHOST – with Study Guide
MYSTERY of the TRACTOR GHOST – with Study Guide
MYSTERY of the THREE SISTERS – with Study Guide
MYSTERY of the LOST CELL PHONE – with Study Guide
TEDDY MEETS KIBOKO – Children’s novel with Study Guide
KIDNAPPED SANTA – Children’s novel with Study Guide


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