The self-interested individual pursues values as the only means of sustaining, furthering and enriching his life, with all that implies. The self-sacrificial person necessarily pursues a course that rejects all values related to life on this Earth. That is the nature and contradiction of sacrifice: the "value" of renouncing values.Postscript: After writing this, I coincidentally received a note with these relevant quotes from Ayn Rand:
The self-sacrificial person upholds the absurd notion of what I'd call the "leaky bucket" ethics--that the bigger the hole and the more you lose the more you gain. (Not unlike Keynesian economics and deficit financing by the government.) It's so absurd that they have to place their reward in the Twilight Zones of Heaven or Social Approval, because no one can act without a personal reward of some kind. The true self-sacrificer is borderline psychotic (psychosis: out of touch with reality): he needs the delusion of a chimera.
The self-interested individual wants to live, here and now. He simply wants his reward in reality and he'll fight to the death, if necessary, to preserve his right to his reward. He'll fight for everyone and everything he holds dear, because to betray or lose those things would make his life--and by implication, all life--impossible and meaningless. Only self-interested individuals who passionately pursue their own happiness can create or preserve values, create or preserve happiness on Earth.
Happiness on Earth is not created by "do-gooders" who sacrifice to "help" others. It is simply what you have when every individual is happily pursuing their own self-interest and achieving their own values. The self-sacrificer thinks happiness can be caused by short-circuiting the means to happiness and taking away the preconditions for it. The truly selfish individual blows no fuses: he electrifies his life with values (to pursue this metaphor) and the effect is to light the world.
"Do not confuse altruism with kindness, good will or respect for the rights of others. These are not primaries, but consequences, which, in fact, altruism makes impossible. The irreducible primary of altruism, the basic absolute, is self-sacrifice—which means; self-immolation, self-abnegation, self-denial, self-destruction—which means: the self as a standard of evil, the selfless as a standard of the good.Which then reminded me of Galt's Speech in Atlas Shrugged:
"Do not hide behind such superficialities as whether you should or should not give a dime to a beggar. That is not the issue. The issue is whether you do or do not have the right to exist without giving him that dime. The issue is whether you must keep buying your life, dime by dime, from any beggar who might choose to approach you. The issue is whether the need of others is the first mortgage on your life and the moral purpose of your existence. The issue is whether man is to be regarded as a sacrificial animal. Any man of self-esteem will answer: “No.” Altruism says: 'Yes.'”
"'Sacrifice' does not mean the rejection of the worthless, but of the precious. 'Sacrifice' does not mean the rejection of evil for the sake of the good, but of the good for the sake of evil. 'Sacrifice' is the surrender of that which you value in favor of that which you don't.
"If you exchange a penny for a dollar, it is not a sacrifice; if you exchange a dollar for a penny, it is. If you achieve the career you wanted, after years of struggle, it is not a sacrifice; if you then renounce it for the sake of a rival, it is. If you own a bottle of milk and give it to your starving child, it is not a sacrifice; if you give it to your neighbor's child and let your own die, it is.
"If you give money to help a friend, it is not a sacrifice; if you give it to a worthless stranger, it is. If you give your friend a sum you can afford, it is not a sacrifice [...] If you give him money at the cost of disaster to yourself--that is the virtue of sacrifice in full.
"Whoever is now within reach of my voice, whoever is man the victim, not man the killer, I am speaking at the deathbed of your mind, at the brink of that darkness in which you're drowning. If there still remains within you the power to struggle to hold on to those fading sparks which had been your self--use it now: the word that has destroyed you is 'sacrifice.' Use the last of your strength to understand its meaning. You're still alive. You have a chance."