Balancing Self-Love and Self-Sacrifice

September 28 , 2019 . By Tsion Fisseha

How does one know what one is willing to sacrifice? And how can one know for sure that it is worth it? What happens if it turns out that the sacrifice is worth nothing at all? Veronica Rott in her book Allegiant explains it this way: “There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater. But sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life. That is the sort of bravery I must have now.”

Anyone who has been in this world long enough knows that nothing comes easy, working hard and hardly working have two completely different outcomes and that time and patience are the building blocks for considerably better living.

The word sacrifice also has another side. The word sacrifice carries with it an individual concept called self-sacrifice. The giving up of one’s own interests or wishes in order to help others or advance a cause. According to various psychologists, why people sacrifice their own lives for others is an evolutionary puzzle. After all, survival and reproduction of an individual’s own genes is the first priority. One wants the best for one’s own self.

Yet we see within ourselves or others the need to swallow the need one has in order to fulfill the needs of others. In most cases it is apparent to see that a mother sacrifices her everything for her child, a daughter sacrifices her mental health to abide by the rules of her guardian, and some pay the ultimate sacrifice for a cause they believe in.

The question now changes to who are we willing to sacrifice for? Which is to say, whose happiness is more important than our own, or who is worth the pain and suffering that boils within.

We, humans, live in societies where we need to cooperate in order to gain favours from other people. In addition, we Ethiopians have been taught to give everything in favour of others and society at large.

But regardless of the many articles that have been written about this particular phenomenon, no one can truly and honestly say why self-sacrifice is as common as it is being seen throughout the globe.

Some people who try to dissect this seemingly selfless act, say that the reasoning behind self-sacrifice is a dire need to come out on top of the heroic pyramid; in simple words, they attribute it to wanting to be viewed as a hero. Others believe that it is because of their innate ability to become a super philanthropist. And still, others cannot seem to find enough explanation and resort to the fact that some people are just more humane.

Whatever the reason, I believe one has to look deep inside and decide the main question who they are willing to sacrifice for? What is one willing to sacrifice? And how does one know that it is worth it? What will one do when the sacrifice is worth nothing at all?

And once we have answered these questions we can so easily be the balanced, self-loving and self-sacrificing piece of art that we would like to be.

PUBLISHED ON Sep 28,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1013]

Tsion Fisseha is a writer and head of foreign languages in the news department at a local TV station. She has been a part of a pan African poetry slam competition representing Ethiopia and is a member of a rock band entitled the Green Manalishi. She can be reached at

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