Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Searching for the Positives in Life

by Russ Beck

Storm clouds over Twisleton Scar End
(Mike Green) / CC BY-SA 2.0

Throughout my career, I've had occasion to visit with many people who were struggling in life ... or rather, struggling with life. One lost a child and could not understand why God allowed that to happen. Another lost a spouse and wondered how to continue without him. Others had horrible acts perpetrated upon them and lived with emotional suffering and pain. Some questioned their ability to ever retire with the economy being so bad, while others wondered if they’d ever find work.

All of these, and hundreds of other reasons, can cause people to feel despondent about life. I know in my own trials, I’ve often found myself asking the age-old question “Why me?” It can be hard finding the silver lining in some of life's storm clouds.

It's been said, “The last of human freedoms is the ability to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.” In other words, we can choose how we are going to respond to any circumstance.

For example, let's say a car cuts us off on the interstate, and in a knee-jerk reaction, we become angry and it ruins the rest of our morning. Now, let's change one factor in that hypothetical situation and see how our response would be different. Let's say that an injured child lies in the back seat of the offending vehicle and the parent is desperately racing to the hospital.

Wouldn't that alter our reaction to being cut off?

How about the loss of a loved one? We can focus on the sadness and become depressed, or we may choose to remember the joy and blessings of life with that person, and go about living a good life that the lost loved one would be proud of.

It might sound simplistic to suggest that choosing to respond positively will alter our lives, and some might decry that it's not real advice. However, the statement about choosing one’s attitude in any given circumstance was spoken by Victor Frankl, a survivor of the Nazi death camps. He spent time in three different camps, being a prisoner in both Auschwitz and Dachau. His family and friends were killed and he was treated inhumanely. He watched as fellow inmates despaired and many committed suicide or just gave up, while others turned to hatred and revenge as their motivation for living. Frankl, however, chose a different path and sought opportunities to help others. That's what he did to survive; he brought humanity into an inhumane setting. He performed small acts of kindness and assistance, often in a clandestine manner.

In the most horrific conditions, Victor Frankl found meaning in life. Or, as he would say, he made meaning out of life. I would suggest reading his book, Man’s Search for Meaning. It is a testament of our ability to choose our responses to difficult situations. As Frankl said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

The power to find the positive in a negative world lies within each of us. It will not necessarily be easy, but it is possible. We truly do control our own destinies.

Until next time …

~ Russ

-----© Russ Beck, 2011-----

No comments:

Post a Comment