Elton John: Sacrifice Meaning
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Song Released: 1989
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...
anonymous Sep 26th, 9:00pm report
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."
I understood it this way after much thought.
The first eight lines is a recall of an act of infidelity by a man. It is human to to recall reminisce or remember an affair or an act especially those we enjoyed or are guilty hence "it's a normal human sign". An affair outside marriage (infidelity) is wrong for especially Christians meant by "when things go wrong". Usually after an affair with someone (side chick), one can still smell the perfume or body odour of the person even in the person’s absence hence “ the scent of her (side chick) lingers” in the mind and heart of the man then the temptation to have another affair with this side chick is strong hence “and temptation’s strong”.
The temptation is usually so strong that even at home with the wife, the married man still is beckoned by the desire to engage in the extra marital affair with that side chick who is a “sweet deceit” hence “into the boundary of each married man, sweet deceit comes calling”. And by answering the call of “sweet deceit”, “negativity lands” which refers to suspicion, disclosure of the infidelity, disagreement, confusions, chaos, bitterness, resentment etc etc. All the happiness, love and wonderful memories disappear when negativity lands.
The absence of peace, trust, love, happiness, fond memories, etc and the presence of negativity ( haunts of infidelity and the resulting chaos) results in cold relationships hence “cold cold heart” when it’s supposed to be warm warm heart, lols. It’s so hard to live with a person who has a cold heart towards you and that person further does a harder thing / another hard thing or complicates matters by seeking a divorce or separation hence “hard done by you”. However, it seems better to go through the pain of being cheated on to maintain the relationship instead of divorcing/separating hence “somethings look better just passing through, baby”. Thus, to the man, the woman should swallow the bitter pill of his infidelity and pass through it or live with it till time eases that pain.
The man equally feels that divorce or separation which connotes a sacrifice of the marriage, love, feeling, etc that was between the two is actually no sacrifice because sacrifice is such a simple word, an understatement of the reality which is two hearts (which are supposed to live in one world and beat as one) living in two separate worlds. How hurting it will be for both hearts as they were locked in love as one but battered now and living in separate worlds as a result of infidelity from the man and unforgiveness from the wife. Hence “it’s no sacrifice, just a simple world, it’s really two hearts living in two separate worlds”. hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
From the preceding, the man wants the woman to understand that she is being too hard seeking a divorce which will results in their two hearts living in two separate worlds instead of being together. However, the woman wants divorce. Usually, it is understood commonly by almost all couples in society that after one finds out that she is being/ has been cheated on, divorce is the next step. This understanding or belief is however, ironically a misunderstanding hence “mutual misunderstanding”. However, to seek divorce based on infidelity, there must be concrete evidence and acceptance by both husband and wife that that cheating really occurred hence “after the fact”. When is a known fact that one’s spouse is a cheat ,one becomes so sensitive which becomes a form of mental and emotional prison hence “sensitivity builds a prison” in the final act of decision making.
No one takes the right direction when s/he is sensitivity bound hence no wonder the couple lost direction completely meant by “we lose direction, no stone unturned”. When one is too sensitive and jealous, the tears seem to dry out or become viscous and not flow hence “no tears to damn you when jealousy burns”.
This again compounds the cold relationship characterized by cold heart, lack of communication etc which makes the spouse cheated on to continue to sacrifice their union and live alone. But it is reechoed that divorce or separation is not merely a sacrifice, a simple word, but actually two hearts living in two separate worlds instead of one and yearning or longing for each other but can’t reconcile due to infidelity and unforgiveness.
I believe the video is very clear on all I have tried to explain but that it should be understood that for decency sake, the act of infedility does not occur on the camera or video hence the audience need to infer.
anonymous Aug 27th, 8:26am report
I just wrote the below, and I don't think that it is accurate. I keep going thru progressively more pessimistic interpretations of what the song is about. When I first heard it on the radio, I thought that the song was saying that it's "no sacrifice" to do the things that are necessary to keep the relationship going. Maybe I like that interpretation the best, but that's not what the song is about.
In Wikipedia it says: "The song is not a typical love song, but rather a song about a breakup of a marriage where the loss of the relationship is "no sacrifice".
What I now think that the song is about is: If all that is happening in the marriage or relationship is that you are tearing each other apart, it's better to separate, and it's "no sacrifice" to do this.
The above explains lyrics like, "sweet deceit comes calling and negativity lands" or "mutual misunderstanding after the fact, sensitivity builds a prison in the final act, we lose direction, no stone unturned (too hurt each other with)".
Also, I don't think that in the song they are talking about one of the people having an affair.
The song is optimistic only in the sense of if you're in such a bad relationship, and nothing can be done, it's OK to let go and separate. And separating will be "no sacrifice".
In the video, it looks like the man and woman have adjusted to, and accepted the separation towards the end.
anonymous Aug 27th, 8:47am report
The meaning of the song is clear. It's in the lyrics. And it explained in Wikipedia. "It's no sacrifice at all, it's just two hearts living in two separate worlds" It's no sacrifice to separate. The sacrifice is in resisting temptation, staying together, keeping the love alive, making it work" But both partners have to be dedicated to this.
anonymous May 12th, 2017 5:43am report
"Sacrifice" is inspired both by the Aretha Franklin song "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man" and described as a Percy Sledge song by Elton John. The song is beloved by both John and Bernie Taupin and deemed a bookend of sorts to their first hit "Your Song". Taupin has said he is surprised he wrote it, and said in an interview, "I think 'Sacrifice' is one of the best songs we've written." The song is not a typical love song, but rather a song about a breakup of a marriage where the loss of the relationship is "no sacrifice."
The video, which follows the song's lyrics, portrays a man and woman having problems in their relationship after being married and raising a daughter. After they go their separate ways, the man raises his daughter alone
Good interpretation from the comment below.
Prefers to be alone/ Single Since Birth
anonymous May 12th, 2017 5:19am report
I agree with everyone that this song is about a Broken marriage but I am not sure who had an affair. I actually think no one had a pan affair, just a mutual misunderstanding. But like many broken marriages the trouble is because of two hearts living in separate worlds. what keeps the couple together is sensitivity to their vows and family but staying in a marriage with no love and affection creates a prison not a home. It will eventually turn tears of sadness and loneliness into anger and distrust, jealousy and endless senseless yelling and arguing, resulting in cold cold heart. But because of their love for their children they stay in the marriage. The thought of breaking up the family is a greater loss than both can imagine and so "it's no sacrifice" at all. The family is worth fighting for. There is hope, for those who connect to this song because you know first hand the pain this song is conveying, fight for your marriage, find help, make time to learn who you each have grown up to be. It's like that other love song, "do you like Pina colada." Praying for protection over your marriage! God bless!
anonymous Jan 10th, 2017 1:54pm report
We need to sacrifice all our life !
anonymous May 28th, 2016 5:05am report
This is a very deep song about a marriage that ended in separation..
I meant, the wife didn't forgive him.
anonymous May 28th, 2016 5:59am report
This song is a very deep song about a marriage that ended in separation. Saw the real meaning of this when I checked it at wikipedia. Watched the video at youtube and it seems the husband is fighting for his love and for their marriage and daughter but the wife didn't forgive her. It seems the wife longs for her husband even if they are now divorced.
To the wife who made a comment yesterday.. It's sad to hear about your situation. I guess you should have a conversation with your husband about your thoughts and feelings. I believe you guys married a long time ago because you both loved each other and you guys stayed married for 13 years because you still love each other. Both of you agreed to get married before because you both wanted to be with each other for the rest of your lives and to have a family. I don't know your husband but maybe there was a reason why he had an affair. Perhaps both of you should forgive each other, be honest, and give each other a chance. Best Wishes.
anonymous May 27th, 2016 5:07pm report
Been married for 13 years and found out last summer my husband has had an affair. I play this song a lot. We're not in love anymore so why can't we get divorced? What are we waiting for? Are we waiting for our daughter to turn 18? All I know is I'm miserable in this marriage...
anonymous Apr 22nd, 2014 4:13am report
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,
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.
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
|| Jealousy can blind one to what is best;
|| your tears would tell you what was right
|| if they weren't suppressed by anger.
anonymous Apr 1st, 2011 4:56pm report
The song is about a young boy named Ryan White, who contracted aids through a blood transfusion back in the early 80's when the whole epidemic was breaking. It was a big story at the time and obviously touched Elton John, inspiring him to write the song after the boy's death.
anonymous Mar 16th, 2011 3:41am report
Of how hard it is to let go of something you love.
"Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."
-Matthew 5: 27 & 28
The song "Sacrifice" is about a married man who falls in love all over again when coming across other women in his life. He dreams of what could be and the sacrifice that will have to take place in his marriage to make that love for the other women come true. So he settles it in his mind where no one can see but him (and God...lol). No harm is done in his marriage bcuz it's all in his head. No tears, no sadness and no sacrifice of his marriage.
BUT, Jesus explains that what is in a man's heart makes the man. God know's the heart of every man. This is a good warning for all men to know to strengthen the love in a marriage. Get it?
If He wouldn't have said it we wouldn't have known...Peace.
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