In the Scottish Ballad of “Tam Lin”, the Fairy Folk are about to make a human sacrifice of the strong and handsome Tam Lin in their All Hallows’ Eve ritual. Just in time, his lover Janet pulls him down from his horse and saves his life.
Many of us make ourselves “human sacrifices” in the name of sacrificial love. We diminish ourselves “for the greater good” because we are in the minority. We silence our voices to keep the peace. We bow to guilt in vain attempts to make up for our failures. We sacrifice ourselves to pay the “tithe” or “teind” to these “gods”.
True sacrificial love must recognize the value of the self being offered. Otherwise, the sacrifice is just an agreement that “I don’t matter” so I’m surrendering “me” for those causes and people that do matter.
Real sacrificial love also is so compelled by the value of the “other” who is at stake that it is happy to pay the price of self in exchange of giving someone else life. It’s counter-intuitive, but sometimes sacrificial love looks like standing against a crowd, speaking up against injustices against ourselves and others, and graciously accepting forgiveness for our mistakes instead of bending over backward to make up for them.
In other words, sometimes the highest forms of self-giving are actually self-expression and receptivity, which many people consider implicitly selfish acts!
Tam Lin didn’t have to succumb to a pointless death – Janet’s bold sacrificial risk spared his life.