No doubt about it. Life is filled with disappointment, discouragement, and at times pure evil.
Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, spent agonizing years in Nazi prison camps. He lost all he held dear, including his parents, young wife and volumes of professional research. Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning—one of the most impactful I’ve read—describes unimaginable horrors as well as unbelievable beauty.
Despite the unbridled evil he endured, Frankl shows the power of choice in these words:
We who lived in the concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
You may recall the news story a few years ago of Elizabeth Smart, a beautiful 14-year-old, who was abducted from her home in Utah. For nine months she was held captive, abused by a deranged man and his wife.
The morning after she returned home, Smart reports this advice her mother gave:
“Elizabeth, what these people have done to you is terrible, and there aren’t words strong enough to describe how wicked and evil they are. They’ve stolen nine months of your life….But the best punishment you could ever give them is to be happy, is to live your life, is to move forward…Because by feeling sorry for yourself and holding onto the past and reliving it over and over and over again, that’s only allowing them to steal more of your life away from you…They don’t deserve another single second….”
At least once a week, I meet with a person whose story is laced with abuse or tragedy.
my heart aches,
my blood boils, or
I weep when the precious person has exited my office.
validate pain and injustice, and
speak to the individual about the power of choice.
Choosing to not stay a victim, even when you have been victimized, is powerful. Does that mean you can forget or bury the trauma of abuse, injustice, betrayal or evil? No. Never. Forever the evil will be etched in your soul, but that does not mean it must hold your soul hostage.
Concerning her mother’s advice, Elizabeth Smart said:
“I agree completely with my mother. That being said, I still have my bad days. I still have my moments, and I’m not at all saying that once you make this decision that you’re not going to let these things bother you or hold you back, that they just disappear. I mean, if only it was that easy. But it’s that decision, that’s the first step to moving forward, to making up your mind that you’re going to reclaim your life and you’re not going to allow whatever experience it is to hold you back.”
During a season when my whole world seemed turned upside down, a friend told me something I couldn’t shake. In time, it changed my attitude about my circumstances. Although it’s one of those euphemisms that may have been overused, I believe it’s worth repeating.
No matter the depth of pain, the unfairness of your circumstance, you have the power to choose your attitude and answer this question:
Will I allow this to make me bitter or better?
Despite the painful chapters in our stories, I pray we will choose the better way…
- Both quotes from Elizabeth Smart: https://oklahoman.com/article/5458793/interview-elizabeth-smart-still-tries-to-live-by-her-mothers-advice ↑