If there's something that become endangered in the last two generations, it's the idea of sacrifice. We went from being the most respected and feared country in the world, to being the laughingstock of even third-world countries. I think this came about, largely, because of the elimination of sacrifice in America today.
Sacrifice /ˈsakrəˌfīs/- An act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.
Think about it. How can you sacrifice for something "regarded as more important or worthy" when the most important thing in your life is your own comfort? When we value comfort, laziness, and entertainment above all else, we turn sacrifice into a mockery. There is no reason to give anything up.
By definition, there must be something more important and worthy to sacrifice for. We must intentionally choose what things are noble and worth pursuing. Otherwise, we fall into the default state of "whatever." People who have changed the world did it because they had a perspective for something bigger, something greater.
Not everything worth pursuing will require you to give up something else. Not all noble causes will cost you dearly. But the ones that matter- the difficult ones- will often push you beyond what you thought you could endure.
Sacrificing your physical comfort and convenience is worth it, but only if it provides some benefit, i.e. making yourself physically strong. In the same way, sacrificing your feelings and time is worth it if the outcome makes you a better person, and brings you closer to your goals and ideals.
What sets a leader apart from followers is the innate ability to know what is worth sacrificing for, and what is not. I would sacrifice everything for justice, honesty, and truth. Short-term happiness is worth sacrificing in order to accomplish these ideals for the better of myself, and those around me. Because it provides benefits, and not just for myself.
There is nothing inherently wrong with being happy and comfortable, but a wise person understands that hardship develops character in ways that being comfortable cannot. Your energy can only be spread across so many areas before you find yourself unable to complete all of your tasks. And of course, if you spend all your energy before you get to the important ones, you will go on living a life of subjective mediocrity.
But a wise man knows this, and plans accordingly. The wise man isn't bothered when storms come, for he has built his foundation on truth and honor, not the cause-du-jour. Not on how he feels, but on how he has sworn to act. The fool does things to impress people. The wise man does things because he knows they are right.
We will all fall short at some point. But the very act of making an honorable vow, and holding to it in spite of hardships, will make you more of a man than anything else. The wise man knows that sacrifice for noble causes makes the world a better place to live for everyone. The foolish man thinks "If there's nothing in it for me, why bother?"
People respect men of honor. It's offensive to those who have none, because the very presence of an honorable man reminds them of how they compromised their integrity for the sake of convenience and favor. A wise man knows this, and prepares for it. They recognize it as jealousy, and brush it off like so much dust.
Sacrifice is intentional. It's deliberate. It's difficult. It's proactive. It is a noble trait, to be cherished in a world where actions speak louder than words. Other people will try to convince you sacrifice is stupid, and that you should take the easy way, like everybody else. They will mock you. Call you names. Try to bring you down to their level. They will try to use your honor as a weapon against you, to get you involved in things that are not noble under the guise of "inequality" or "fairness." They will try to get you involved in everything, and in so doing, take your precious time and energy away from the things that really matter.
A wise man knows they cannot eliminate every injustice in the world, and so they must focus on what they can do, and save their energy for what they have sworn to uphold, first and foremost.
This is just one of the many traits of a mature person, but for now, we must remember to focus.
Sacrifice is not a bad thing if its done for the right reasons, with the right amount of energy.
Honor your vows. Fight till it hurts. You will be a better person for it, and the world will be better for it.