What does Sacrifice mean?

Elton John: Sacrifice Meaning

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Album cover for Sacrifice album cover

Song Released: 1989

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Sacrifice Lyrics

Its a human sign
When things go wrong
When the scent of her lingers
And temptations strong

Into the boundary
Of each married man
Sweet deceit comes calling
And negativity lands

Cold cold heart
Hard done by you
Some things look...


    #1 top rated interpretation:
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    Feb 18th 2022 !⃝

    I want to talk about a slightly different interpretation of the song. Obviously it's about a relationship between two people A and B, but I wonder what the sacrifice is.

    What struck me is that the singer doesn't seem to judge either A nor B for the breakup of their relationship. He just describes it in an understanding way. Like it was bound to happen. So for me "It's no sacrifice, just a simple word." means that if a relationship like the one in the song is on such a late stage, where both are "living in seperate worlds" it is no sacrifice to break up.

    Each of them has their own ton of problems, for instance for person A the "tempation's strong", so A feels drawn to have an affair while person B finds out about that and her "sensitivity builds a prison". B is so hurt that she has "no tears to damn you, when jealousy burns". Both A and B form a "cold cold heart, hard done by you".

    A and B cling to the relationship although its that bad by now there is not much left to save. The singer presents the only solution, to break up, as being no sacrifice because both of them will feel better without the other. Also the singer tries to take their fear of separation from them with saying that it (breakup) is "just a simple word".

    "It's a human sign when things go wrong" is for me also a strong clue that confirms that interpretation. When you are in a relationship where neither you nor your partner are happy and the situation seems unsolvable then it's no sacrifice to say farewell. It is no failure, it is not weak and you won't regret it no matter what society says. It's human after all.

    (I am not advertising breakups in general. I just think it is the right thing to do for sad realtionship situations that seem completely hopeless.)


    #2 top rated interpretation:
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    Apr 22nd 2014 !⃝

    Here is what it might be about:

    It's a human sign
    When things go wrong:
    When the scent of her lingers
    And temptation's strong,

    || It's normal to be tempted by an opportunity
    || outside of a committed relationship.

    Into the boundary
    Of each married man
    Sweet deceit comes calling
    And negativity lands.

    || And when this happens, it's easy to see
    || what's wrong with your primary relationship
    || by comparison to the new opportunity.

    Cold, cold heart,
    Hard done by you...

    || Life with "you" (the singer's spouse) has
    || not been easy, and has made the singer's heart
    || "cold." For a moment, he is blaming his spouse
    || for the temptation of another...

    Some things look better baby,
    Just passing through.

    || But he knows the third person only looks so good
    || because the relationship will be transient.

    And it's no sacrifice,
    Just a simple word.

    || The simple word is "No"; and it is, of course,
    || a sacrifice, though one that must be made.

    It's two hearts living
    In two separate worlds.

    || The spouse will never know or understand what
    || the singer gives up. (Presumably the reverse
    || is true as well.)
    || Also, the "outsider" and the singer live
    || in two separate worlds, as she (or he)
    || cannot be a part of the life the singer has
    || with his spouse.

    But it's no sacrifice,
    No sacrifice,
    It's no sacrifice at all.

    || The singer can't speak of the sacrifice...
    || all one can say to the person one loves is that
    || fidelity is no sacrifice, even though it's not true.

    Mutual misunderstanding
    After the fact:
    Sensitivity builds a prison
    In the final act.

    || (This one is difficult to explain...)
    || Being "sensitive" --- being aware that something is
    || going on --- can trap one in a position where it is
    || difficult to do what is best. Some things cannot be
    || discussed or understood, only accepted and forgiven.

    We lose direction,
    No stone unturned.

    || In the process of analyzing every detail and confronting
    || everything that has happened (or might have happened),
    || we forget about what really matters.

    No tears to damn you
    When jealousy burns.

    || (I think here the singer's spouse has become aware
    || of the real or potential affair and will not be
    || consoled by the singer's insistence that he has
    || rejected the possibility and it is "no sacrifice";
    || she undoubtedly understands that he is not without
    || regret.)
    || Jealousy can blind one to what is best;
    || your tears would tell you what was right
    || if they weren't suppressed by anger.


    #3 top rated interpretation:
    click a star to vote
    Sep 26th 2017 !⃝

    As I understand it, as someone who has known this song inside out for years: The narrator's relationship with his partner is breaking down. He realises this when he becomes attracted to someone else, as he wouldn't be tempted if his relationship with his partner was a good one. Hence, "It's a human sign/When things go wrong/When the scent of her lingers/And temptation strong."
    He feels he must act upon this temptation ("Sweet deceit comes calling") but when he does, his partner finds out and rows break out ("And negativity lands"). As their relationship was already rocky, he had become cynical, ("Cold, cold heart/Hard done by you"), so he doesn't feel any sorrow in cheating. As he puts it, compared to their relationship, "Some things look better" and he intends to move on as he is "just passing through".
    As this relationship had got so bad, giving it up is "no sacrifice". Already, he realises, they are "two hearts living in two separate worlds." So it's not as if they are together anymore in any real sense. Like a lot of couples towards the end, they are living separate lives while just happening to live in the same house. For this reason, ending it, as he reiterates, is "no sacrifice at all."
    After the arguments, the couple do not talk anymore and this lack of communication leads to confusion as to what they both really think. "Mutual misunderstanding/After the fact").
    The woman, it seems, does not want to hear from him: she is too heartbroken; she has heard enough. Hence, "Sensitivity builds a prison/ In the final act." "We lose direction" refers to there being no point to their knowing each other anymore. The aim, originally, had been love but that is off the cards now. "No stone unturned," refers to both lovers' analysis of the relationship, trying to figure out where it went wrong. "No tears to damn you/When jealousy burns" refers, I think, refers to her spite in her retaliation. But the narrator has no tears to demonstrate the break down of their relationship which led to his adultery, as he doesn't give a damn anymore. The loss of their relationship, he repeats, was worthless at the end anyway. Losing it, and exchanging it for a new one with someone else, was "no sacrifice at all."

  4. Maria_7
    click a star to vote
    Jul 16th 2023 !⃝

    To me this song can be applied to any relationship breaking up. The two lovers might even still be in love with each other, regardless the infedelity and misunderstandings and harshness. It was time for both to move on regardless both hearts breaking, they understood that destiny will always have her way.

  5. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jul 16th 2023 !⃝

    For me it can be applied to any relationship breaking up.
    The 2 might even still love each other, whatever the reasons for infedelity, misunderstanding and harshness; it was just time to move on with destiny; therefore there is no sacrifice once destiny it is understood.

  6. anonymous
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    Jun 1st 2022 !⃝

    I think the song is about a married man falling in love with another woman. As the video depicts , the young woman is the man’s lover, but she break things abruptly cause the man is married and has a daughter. From her perspective, it’s no sacrifice to end the affair abuse he won’t leave her daughter for her, from his perspective it’s no sacrifice because he loves his daughter most of all.

  7. anonymous
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    Apr 29th 2022 !⃝

    Bernie Taupin described his lyrics. “It’s about a marriage falling apart and trying to live a lie when you actually can't,” he explained. “People call it the divorce song.” If we take him at his word, then the verses and chorus seem to resolve, as follows (taken, partly, from @morten1015, songmeanings.com):

    It’s a human sign, when things go wrong (Things have gone wrong. It’s human nature.)
    When the scent of her lingers, and temptation’s strong (He is tempted to forgive her)
    Into the boundary of each married man (At some point, every marriage faces trust issues.)
    Sweet deceit comes calling and negativity lands (She has been unfaithful.)

    Cold, cold heart hardened by you (his heart is cold.)
    Some things look better, baby, just passing through (He knows that, likely, she regrets it; that it was just a fling.)

    And it’s no sacrifice, just a simple word. It’s two hearts living in two separate worlds (But he’s done.)
    But it’s no sacrifice, no sacrifice. It’s no sacrifice, at all (Few men can accept their wife’s infidelity. For him, the marriage is over.)

    Mutual misunderstanding after the fact (They fight.)
    Sensitivity builds a prison in the final act (They isolate themselves from each other.)
    We lose direction, no stone unturned (They can’t make it work.)
    No tears to damn you when jealousy burns (He doesn’t cry, despite his jealousy.)

    Admittedly, the video presents a somewhat less direct take on this reading since, initially at least, the Chris Isaak character seems bent on keeping/forgiving her, while she just wants out—a bit at odds with the “hit the bricks, babe” account, above. Also, the Chris Isaak character seems tortured by the break-up and his pain feels a bit contrary to his claim of “no sacrifice, at all.” One explanation: The difficulty of portraying a man’s “heart gone cold” in a story-based, 80s video. Likely, they could have managed it but, almost certainly, the record company would have considered it unsavory, i.e., he discovers her adultery, they fight, and he boots her without looking back. Not much standard, lonelyhearts video love, there!

  8. SAMI73
    click a star to vote
    Mar 11th 2022 !⃝

    I love the interpretation of the song in the video.The couple in love, grow apart. She left him and her daughter in search a new life, a better life, after years she reads his letters and thinks about him and their life,their now grown up daughter.The final scene where he dances with his daughter is just priceless..No sacrifice at all.

  9. anonymous
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    Mar 9th 2022 !⃝

    The main meaning from this song is "Marriage can be so hard". Anything can be happened in a marriage, a jealosy, sometimes we all can say "We Just Need To Sacrifice" to make anything better, but the fact and reality it's not that easy to do it, it's just a simple word but not easy to do.

    When marriage couples getting a divorce to make anything get better, or having a better life it's not a sacrifice at all to get better, it can be worse for the children.

    The point is marriage it's not easy whatever the problem is. Affair, a heart getting cold, boredom and all the problems will get through in the future, sometimes it will passed but there will be again. So on and on.

    If we giving up on a marriage, it's not a sacrificed because it's not a better way.

  10. ellemir
    click a star to vote
    Mar 8th 2022 !⃝

    I believe the song is about end of marriage due to husband's infidelity.Hence:"Temptation's strong, into the boundary of each married man".However, the music video seems to have a completely different interpretation of the song and portrays story of it's own,in which a couple separate and the man is the one who raises their daughter and the woman choose a different path with no infidelity from either one of them.

  11. Gladys
    click a star to vote
    Mar 7th 2022 !⃝

    If you are interpreting this song based on the music video, you are not really judging the lyrics, but a third-party's video creation based on how THEY interpret the song. The original Bernie Taupin lyrics say nothing about a baby, who was unfaithful in the marriage or whether they are getting a divorce. I think the idea of sacrifice does mirror the Christian marriage ceremony, in which each partner vows to "forsake all others". So if they are unfaithful, they have not sacrificed, but given in to temptation.

  12. anonymous
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    Mar 5th 2022 !⃝

    Fantastic song but why is it always the man cheating it looks like she’s the one that’s fed up with the marriage because he sit around and raised a daughter where is she always the man’s fault

  13. anonymous
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    Mar 4th 2022 !⃝

    The song "sacrifice" is about end of marriage when loss of relationship is no sacrifice.Through the song lyrics and the music video we learn a couple are married and are raising a daughter, but have problems in their relationship.. It doesn't clearly implies what is the problem, maybe there was some infidelity in the past that still is haunting them,Seems like the couple can't find a solution for their problems and finally break up. At the end the man is grateful to be the primary parent of their daughter.. while the woman seems like she finally found her way in life.

  14. anonymous
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    Dec 9th 2021 !⃝

    I think the song and lyrics and video are portraying a man and woman breaking up and the mom/wife leaving the family to pursue her own career because she's self centered, while the husband/dad ends up bringing up their daughter all by himself. At the end, the daughter is all grown and he dances with her.Love your kids and be parents for them.It's no sacrifice at all.

  15. anonymous
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    Dec 8th 2021 !⃝

    Beautiful song about breakup of marriage . After I listened to the song and watched the video on YouTube, it seems like the wife doesn’t forgive her husband.Possibly he was unfaithful to her. The husband is trying to fix marriage as years passes. But looks like at the end, the wife has move on and does not want anything to do with him. For her, it’s no sacrifice at all to move on with a new life. For him, that was huge sacrifice losing his love by betraying her.

  16. niloo1352
    click a star to vote
    Nov 2nd 2021 !⃝

    The song as the music video portrays is about young couple getting separated after they have a baby daughter and the man raises their daughter alone, because his wife chooses her career over family.He is singing it to his daughter, telling her it's no sacrifice at all to bring her up because he loves her.

  17. anonymous
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    Oct 17th 2021 !⃝

    I think the interpretation of the song in the video is the most touching. A young beautiful couple have a baby, the woman is suffering from post natal depression and realises she doesn’t want to be a mother and a wife. The young man is trying his best to help her and stop her from leaving but his love is not enough. She wants a different life, she wants success and freedom. He tells her: I understand -go, I’ll bring our daughter up - it’s not a sacrifice for me.

  18. anonymous
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    May 25th 2021 !⃝

    the man's past,came back to hunt his marriage,as he couldn't stop it.The marriage ended,and the couple went their ways.

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