A few months back, it was recommended by a friend of mine that I read Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl.
Have you read it?
If you haven't, DO!
If you have, read it AGAIN!
It is a winner on all levels and quite literally changed my life.
There is a passage among the many beautiful pages that shook me to the core; one that talks about being "worthy of our trials". I wasn't exactly sure how one could be worthy of their trial as an Auschwitz concentration camp inmate during World War II as Victor was, and more specifically as myself going through my modern day trials. Then I read this:
(Please read this…. It is SO transformative!)
"We who lived in 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.
And there were always choices to make.
Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate.
Seen from this point of view, the mental reactions of the inmates of a concentration camp must seem more to us than the mere expression of certain physical and sociological conditions. Even though conditions such as lack of sleep, insufficient food and various mental stresses may suggest that the inmates were bound to react in certain ways, in the final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone. Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him--mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp. Dostoevski said once, 'There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings.' These words frequently came to my mind after I became acquainted with those martyrs whose behavior in camp, whose suffering and death, bore witness to the fact that the last inner freedom cannot be lost. It can be said that they were worthy of their sufferings; the way they bore their suffering was a genuine inner achievement. It is this spiritual freedom--which cannot be taken away--that makes life meaningful and purposeful.
The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity--even under the most difficult circumstances--to add a deeper meaning to his life. It may remain brave, dignified and unselfish. Or in the bitter fight for self-preservation he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal. Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of or to forgo the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation may afford him. And this decides whether he is worthy of his sufferings or not.
Do not think that these considerations are unworldly and too far removed from real life. It is true that only a few people are capable of reaching such high moral standards. Of the prisoners only a few kept their full inner liberty and obtained those values which their suffering afforded, but even one such example is sufficient proof that man's inner strength may raise him above his outward fate. Such men are not only in concentration camps. Everywhere man is confronted with fate, with the chance of achieving something through his own suffering." ~Victor Frankl
So incredibly moving. This threw me into a whole new realm of pondering and realization. We can, no matter how hard our trials are, we can achieve something through our own suffering!
It 's not just a far-fetched idea….it is possible!
As I type this, I'm reminded of my sister-in-law, Megan, who was separated from her daughter just one hour after she was born, and transported to the cancer institute because they found Leukemia during delivery.
(You can read her inspiring story here.)
After reading this book, and paralleling my sister-in-law's story to Victor's, I am so moved because Megan was the epitome of what he described.
As she was fighting for her life, she was the favorite patient in the entire cancer wing of the hospital. Everyone wanted to care for her. Everyone loved her. The nurses and doctors, everyone adored her. At a time when she was dying, literally dying, and she had chemo running through her veins, she was kind, loving, appreciative… and as Victor said one could be, Megan was brave, she was dignified, she was unselfish.
Being stripped away from her newborn daughter, and her body enduring more physical pain than you can imagine, at a time when most people would bitterly say,
Megan was known for saying,
"WHY NOT ME!?"
And this is what being worthy of our sufferings means to me.
In what seem like our modern day concentration camps (whether it be Leukemia, divorce, betrayal, disease, loss, financial issues, etc.), we can overcome with dignity. Even if we have to, we can walk into the gas-chamber upright, with our head held high knowing that we didn't let our woes dim our inner light even until our very last breath.
We can be the sort of person that we admire the very most.
Every moment there is a choice… and we can choose to live with integrity and purpose.
"Our generation is realistic for we have come to know man as he really is. After all, man is that being who has invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who has entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or Shema Yisrael on his lips." ~Victor Frankl
Have a wonderful Tuesday everyone.
I love you so much!