How many times in your life have you said, "I'd give anything, if only (fill in the blank)." Or "I'd cut off an arm to be able to..."  Or "I'd die for you!"

But would you really? Just how far would you really go for the things you say you desperately love, miss, need or want? If you have a dream, just what will you do in order to achieve it?

No, I'm not suggesting you should really die or cut off limbs or in any other way harm yourself (or others) to get what you want. That's not my point.

It's so easy to throw around comments about what we would do or give up for something - or someone. We say those things as a way to indicate importance or significance to us. That's all well and good but when push comes to shove, in most of those instances, there is no follow-through. And in all probability, that's a good thing. I mean, really, do you want to cut off your arm for a piece of that chocolate cheesecake with the mounds of whipped cream that you saw in a shop last week?

We can throw out silly comments about the sacrifices we would make for trivial things. And then there's the real world, where we look at a dream, a potential goal or achievement, but when we see what it would take to get there, we give up. We walk away, chicken out, or can't be asked. Too often in our busy and often self-absorbed lives, true sacrifice is not even on the menu.

What do I mean by "true sacrifice"? Well, I don't mean the times that we must cancel our own plans because one of the children is sick or the mother-in-law is in hospital and we really should be there. I'm not talking about the times we give up something begrudgingly, moaning and grumbling about it and resenting the person we believe to be at fault or who has caused us such a great inconvenience.

No, I'm not talking about that at all. Anyone can do that.

And I'm not talking about giving up something that is no big deal and doesn't mean all that much to the "giver". I'm talking about the art of sacrifice. The "art" of sacrifice? Yes. Because it is graceful, beautiful, moving, meaningful, and an expression of something pure and perfect which comes from the deepest part of the soul - and that's what art is, too.

You don't get a warm, fuzzy feeling from giving up something very valuable and precious to you just because you have to do it. You're thinking only about what you lost, and you're thinking that that's more important than what someone else will have gained because of it.

But when you give up something you treasure because it means as much or more to someone else, and you're willing and happy to do it, then that is the art of sacrifice. The sacrifice you make may even be for yourself at some future point, for example when working toward a goal that means "all work and not a lot of play" for now, but with great rewards someday.

True sacrifice is not looking at the individual trees but rather, seeing the entire forest and acting on something because it is for the greater good. It is not supposed to be easy (and if it is, it is not a sacrifice). But it is always valuable. And it is definitely worth it.

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