Sacrificing yourself for an idea is suspect at best. One look at the history of religion, nationalism, or terrorism will show you that. Is an ideal ever as valuable as a person?

Dying for a belief is self-extermination. Taking others with you is genocide.

Can you really hold an enriching dialogue with those you’d like to teach or convince after you (or they) are dead? And who will be left to believe when everybody’s gone?

Even worse are martyrs for the sake of pride or vanity. You hear them say, “No, it’s okay . . .” when making a minor sacrifice. They eagerly await honors and rewards for major sacrifices. These martyrs aren’t even interested in upholding an ideal–only glorifying themselves.

Giving yourself freely to help others is a different story. Both of you can learn and grow and no one needs to die in the process. If tempted to martyr yourself for any cause–great or small–try to step back to consider a more constructive alternative.

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