The importance of sacrifice and selflessness in a time of division and hate

Wherever we turn, it seems that we are divided more than ever before. Societies and countries all across the world are riven by hate and disunity.

The USA’s national debate is increasingly polarised between two extremes who seem to have little common ground. The Middle East is torn between sectarian conflict and regional powers fighting proxy wars, with civilians bearing the brunt of the fallout. Several large Latin American countries are undergoing political turmoil and upheaval. Closer to home, our relationship with our European neighbours has become no clearer after Brexit, with everyone: Leavers, Remainers and Europe, unhappy with the way the negotiations are going. It seems that everywhere we look, opposing sides are further away and more polarised than ever.

Worse still, cordiality and mutual respect are no longer a part of our dialogue sand conversations. Opposing sides no longer just respectfully disagree, they actively hate each other, and thus no room exists for compromise or moving forward as a whole.

In this kind of world, sacrifice and selflessness are more important than ever. Acknowledging that perhaps what is best for society may not that which is best for your personally, is the bedrock upon which our societies are built. Some of the core principles we take for granted, are based on this: the idea of the welfare state, the idea of universal healthcare, even of charity.

If through my taxes, I, as someone who is employed, help someone who is struggling, then materially I am worse off, but society as a whole is better. If I as a healthy person, contribute to a healthcare system that helps someone who is sick, then I am worse off, but society as a whole is better. If I give £10 in charity, then it of course follows that I am £10 worse off, but society as a whole is far richer for that gift.

In all these examples though, I give with the knowledge that by doing so, I am contributing to a system that will one day pay me back. I still have something to gain. I contribute my national insurance, because I know that when I retire, I’ll get a pension. If I were to lose my job, I would get welfare. If I fell sick, I would get treatment. Even if I give charity, my intention might be that one day I too may need assistance, and I will rely on the generosity of others, just as others rely on mine today.

Hussain once said that the best of people is he who gives to one who cannot ever pay him back. That is true sacrifice. Giving because giving is good. Helping because helping is good. Being selfless because it’s the right thing to do.

If we all tried a little harder to do the right thing because it was the right thing, then it wouldn’t matter to us if our gestures weren’t reciprocated, if our actions weren’t acknowledged. It wouldn’t matter to us if the other side continued with poor behaviour, because ultimately, we have sacrificed for a greater cause: for the good of society. In a world riven by differences and hate, what better way to try to overcome our divisions than by selflessness and sacrifice.

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