Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Nature of a Sacrifice

My wife had been bothering me recently about seeing a movie together, so I took her to check out that new Will Smith joint last weekend.

Smith has followed a pretty predictable formula with his last few movies; conflicted hero overcomes internal or external demons while getting the girl and, sometimes, kicking ass. All wrapped up inside a nice morality tale about how we can all be better people.


Now, that doesn't mean I'm not a fan of Smith's. I respect how he's improved himself as an actor and how he typically makes movies of a decent quality. I've just noticed that there is a fairly predictable pattern to those movies.

Anyway, I saw his most recent offering, "Seven Pounds", and it hewed pretty close to the Will Smith formula. But, despite its predictability, it did make me think about the nature of sacrifice.

I won't spoil the movie, but it's safe to say that Smith's character makes the lives of needy people better through sacrifice. In order to decide who deserves his help, Smith basically stalks individuals and watches how they treat by other people. He won't help them until he's certain they really deserve his gift.


On one level, given the nature of the sacrifices Smith's character makes in the movie, the amount of time he spends getting to know these people is understandable. I probably wouldn't want to waste the sacrifice he makes either. But, after watching the movie, I began to wonder if his sacrifice was devalued because he thought he had the right to decide who was worth saving?

What's that about?

I guess it's not that unusual for folks to be picky about who they want to help. I've seen it all the time covering the crime beat. Certain victims inspire people to raise money, do marches and demand change. Other victims make them wonder why it's taking so long for the weather report to come on the nightly news.

In fact, I've been guilty of that behavior myself. I've sat in my car at a red light and decided which people on the side of the road truly deserve my piddling dollar. In church, I've decided whether or not to give an offering based on whether I thought the pastor was about the right thing. It's natural for human beings to only want to help those people we think deserve help, but I wonder if that really qualifies as a sacrifice?

Doesn't the word "sacrifice" imply a certain amount of pain and stretching to benefit others? If we only "sacrifice" for those people who make us feel good about it, what are we really sacrificing? Aren't we actually getting repaid for our generosity, just in a different coin?

I don't know the answers to these questions. It's beyond my area of expertise. But, I thought it was interesting thing to ponder.



Anonymous said...

I think there's a difference between "giving" and "sacrifice" though they can overlap.

We should be giving as often as we can, at least as often as we are comfortable, and beyond that sometimes (which doesn't always constitute a sacrifice).

By there very nature, sacrifices have to be more rare. I think if all of us sacrificed all the time, it could get pretty grim for most of us. It doesn't do much for the human psyche to ONLY sacrifice. Martyrdom can be powerful, but it would be counterproductive in most cases.

I think to the time when my mother-in-law was fighting cancer. She and my father-in-law were without health insurance at the time, and we provided it for them. That came at a huge cost...not having my tax money (I'm a freelancer, so it isn't taken out of any checks) when it was due. It isn't something I pat myself on the back about; it was simply the right thing to do, as painful as it was (and continues to be, since we're still paying that money to the IRS).

I guess my point is that we need to be willing to sacrifice when needed, but those are times that usually present themselves, and quite clearly.

The more charitable kind of giving I think we need to be somewhat "judgmental" about...though probably far less persnickity than most of us are.

Mr. Noface said...

The selectiveness of Smith's character was my one big problem with the movie (in the back of my head I wondered who died and made him God). The movie was basically saying, "only help those who are worthy of it" which I think is wrong. I realized however, that he was indeed doing what we are all guilty of; passing judgement based on our own perspective and our own limited information. Does it make what he did for those people less "good"? I'm not sure, but I don't think so. Does it make his sacrifice less pure and therefore less noble? I'd have to day yes, because there are people out there that help others no matter who they are and what they've done (i.e doctors, firemen, police officers). Those people certainly make judgements about the people they help, but they don't let those judgements stop them from helping those people. That was really my only beef with the movie, which I loved over all.

D C Cain said...

I think that, given the nature of Sacrifice that Will's character made in the movie, he should have selected who he wanted to help. And then, if you are a religious person, you can even say that he got no reward in the end for his sacrifice. I mean, where do you think he ended up aftar THAT kind of sacrife...?

Big Man said...


Depends on how closely you believe in the Bible, I guess. After all, according to the bible, good works don't get you into heaven.

Anonymous said...

I used to love that show "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air", and he was great in "The Pursuit of Happiness"

OG, The Original Glamazon said...

I think its still sacrifice. I mean really if you look at it, it is human nature and sacrificing for some one that doesn't deserve it seems very Christ like. So we should strive unselfish sacrifice and know it is possible (because Jesus showed us it was).

Hope that made sense. Have a great New Year!!


Anonymous said...

Nice topic... it was some great food for thought.

My own thinking is that it's no use second guessing ourselves. I've spent a lot of my life trying to b e good at things I wasn't and trying to get along with people who don't click with me. The truth is, we all have certain gifts and predilections, and I truly believe that there is a higher power that directs it all for the greatest good, if we all will just follow our hearts.

So maybe some people are really drawn to helping unwed teenage mothers, good for them. Maybe that's their calling. For others it might be middle aged drug addicts. And another group might read to the blind or teach english to recent immigrants.

I don't think sacrifice or giving is about choosing who to give it to, like Smith's movie. I think it's about finding your calling. It's about seeing where your gifts would be best put to use. There's no sense to all of us doing the same things, so there's no sense to feeling guilty over helping some and not others.

In the end it's not a choice about the people we help, it's a choice about how we see ourselves and our own calling.

Btw, I'd say a lot more about the relationship between helper and helpee, but this post ain't about it, so how about bringing that up sometime soon Big Man?

Tit for Tat said...

Kinda like Jesus Sacrifice..........but only if you believe.

Big Man said...

Dave Zylstra

I'd like to here more about your thoughts regarding helpers and those being helped.

Shoot me an email if you get a chance.

Raving Black Lunatic