During the Medieval Ages, the young Joan of Arc began hearing voices she claimed to be from God when she was just 13 years old. The voices exhorted her to gain support from the French dauphin and command the French army to drive the British out of France, and she fulfilled her duties. She led the French army to many victories, but she was eventually captured and sold to the English. Her refusal to accept the church hierarchy by claiming direct inspiration from God constituted heresy in the eyes of the church. Throughout the lengthy trial and imprisonment she boldly fought her inquisitors. Only at the end of the trial did Joan recant, and she was sentenced to life in prison. Shortly after the trial she took back her abjuration and was burned at the stake. .
Perhaps if Joan of Arc hade kept her renunciation, she would have lived, yet she instead opted to withdraw her rejection. Joan showed a timeless example of martyrdom, the state of choosing to suffer death rather than renounce religious principles. It can also be defined as the actual death of a martyr.
Martyrdom originated from the Greek word "martys", meaning, "witness," as in a witness to the truth, but the English definition means much more than that. A martyr not only knows what he or she believes, but makes it known to others, and consequently suffers greatly for revealing his or her thoughts. Martyrdom is basically self-sacrifice with no better options. The difference between martyrdom and persecution is the choice to suffer. For example, during the holocaust millions of Jews were murdered, but they did not choose to die. Although many tried to conceal their religion, they were killed anyway. Essentially, they did their best to stay alive, whereas a martyr prefers death to suppressing his or her beliefs.
Wilhelm Stekel once said, "The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.