Martyrdom: Sacrifice, Altruism, Duty

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The question of purpose is one that has come up for all of us at some point in our lives. We toil and wait for some reward or acknowledgement to come at some point. In some instances it the work itself that is inherently rewarding. Our sacrifice though must be pointed at some aim. We work to create, or achieve something for ourselves and often that is our family or community.

What we do as individuals can sometimes benefit us exclusively but recognizing that we are product of a larger group, all we accomplish is linked to that group. This creates a sense of debt or exchange  in us that we want to pay back, or pay into. At times this payment comes at personal cost, it is the sacrifice of some liberty or resource for the sake of the greater good.

But we must first try and figure out which good is greater, the sacrifice we make for our family and children, or the one we make for our local society and community, or the one we make on behalf of our larger territory or nation.

Then we must consider what we can afford to sacrifice and what type of contribution we want to make. This can be a sense of altruism, selfless connection to other individuals or a sense of duty to uphold a set of values that rest with a higher power.

For some, the ultimate price is to lay down ones life for a cause they believe in or people they care about and this gives them a sense of purpose that is of infinite personal value.What you give up often by sacrificing your life is repaid by the alleviation of the anxiety of not knowing whether your life has meaning or impact.

This profound sense of purpose is what compels the soldier to join the fight, and the mother to risk her own life to save that of her child. The connection those of us feel to a particular action or calling is of great significance and worthy of investigation.  In the coming weeks we will explore the motivations for this type of sacrifice and where our sense of duty comes from and how we engage with it. With any luck we will come to a greater understanding of how much we are willing to give, to what goal , and why we feel it is so important.

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