Sacrifice is another word liable to misunderstanding. It
is generally held to be noble and loving in proportion as its sacrificial
nature is consciously felt by the person who is sacrificing himself. The
direct contrary is the truth. To feel sacrifice consciously as self-sacrifice
argues a failure in love.
When a job is undertaken from necessity, or from a grim sense of disagreeable
duty, the worker is self-consciously aware of the toils and pains he undergoes,
and will say: I have made such and such sacrifices for this.
But when the job is a labor of love, the sacrifices will present themselves
to the worker strange as it may seem in the guise of enjoyment.
Moralists, looking on at this, will always judge that the former kind
of sacrifice is more admirable than the latter, because the moralist,
whatever he may pretend, has far more respect for pride than for love.
The Puritan assumption that all action disagreeable to the doer is ipso
facto more meritorious than enjoyable action, is firmly rooted in
this exaggerated valuation set on pride. I do not mean that there is no
nobility in doing unpleasant things from a sense of duty, but only that
there is more nobility in doing them gladly out of sheer love of the job.
The Puritan thinks otherwise; he is inclined to say, Of course.
So-and-so works very hard and has given up a good deal for such-and-such
a cause, but theres no merit in that he enjoys it.
The merit, of course, lies precisely in the enjoyment, and the nobility
of So-and-so consists in the very fact that he is the kind of person to
whom the doing of that piece of work is delightful.
It is because, behind the restrictions of the moral code, we instinctively
recognize the greater validity of the law of nature, that we do always
in our heart of hearts prefer the children of grace to the children of
legality. We recognize a false ring in the demanding voice which proclaims:
I have sacrificed the best years of my life to my profession (my
family, my country, or whatever it may be), and have a right to expect
some return. The code compels us to admit the claim, but there is
something in the expression of it that repels us.
Conversely, however, the children of legality are shocked by the resolute
refusal of the children of light to insist on this kind of claim and
still more disconcertingly by their angry assertion of loves
right to self-sacrifice. Those, for example, who obligingly inform creative
artists of methods by which (with a little corrupting of their creative
purpose) they could make more money, are often very excusably shocked
by the fury with which they are sent about their business. Indeed, creative
love has its darker aspects, and will sacrifice, not only itself, but
others to its overmastering ends.
Dorothy Sayers (1893-1957)
The Mind of the Maker (1941)
Chapter IX The Love of the Creature pp. 133ff