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When I was a child, my parents explained Hari Raya Puasa and Hari Raya Haji to me as ‘celebrations of the Lunar New Year for Malays’. Don’t blame them; lots of parents misinform because they think children are too young to understand certain concepts such as sacrifice. At least, lots of Asian parents, past and present, do that.

I was puzzled and envious, wondering why my Malay friends got to celebrate the Lunar New Year twice when my Chinese friends and I only got to rev it up once a year. Then, I consoled myself that both races get two days off in a year…

Read about the true meaning of Hari Raya Haji here.

Someone once told me that to achieve certain things in life, one has to give up other things. In his case, he ended up with lots of debts incurred by his spouse and ultimately a divorce after devoting too much time to his work. He subsequently cleared all the debts and became the top man in his company, but he remains single to this day.

The Chinese have this phrase called ‘捨得’, and the two words put together, refers to a willingness to part with something/someone. However, it’s not uncommon for people to interpret the same phrase as two individual words, and then we’d have ‘捨’ (to give up or to abandon) and ‘得’ (to obtain or to gain). Simply put, it means that one will gain something after giving up another.

Sacrifice.

A word with more than one meaning. If we take it to mean ‘to forfeit (one thing) for another thing considered to be of greater value’, then by virtue of the fact that people attribute different values to the same thing, the issue of people interpreting differently what constitutes as a sacrifice also comes in.

To me, it’s quite simple. If you have a lot of greed in your heart, almost anything will be painful to give up, and you’ll be torn every time you have to make a decision to choose between two or among many. Many times, when I talk with friends and acquaintances, I realise that their indecision and dilemma often results from an inability to discern what is the one true important thing to them in a particular issue or situation.

Of course, one may argue that there are many important things in life, but I believe that there is something that guides our core and to lose that is to lose ourselves. Your inner compass, so as to speak. As to what that is, it’s something that we have to discover for ourselves. I can’t dictate anyone’s direction in life; I can only move forward to my true North, the one that my compass points to.

My life is not exactly what one might call ‘smooth-sailing’ and I’ve definitely lost some things as the years passed, but my mind comes up with a blank when I try to think of things that I considered to have sacrificed.

This moment, I’m content and thankful to be here.