Viktor Frankl – psychiatrist, holocaust survivor, and author of Man’s Search for Meaning, is the founder of logotherapy, the idea that we shape our experience based on the ideas we hold about that experience.
While in a concentration camp, after his entire family had been murdered, Viktor Frankl wrote a manuscript, which he hid in a secret place.
The guards however discovered the manuscript, and when they did, they brought him before the tribunal, stripped him naked and burned the manuscript in front of him. While standing there watching his manuscript burn, one of the guards noticed that Frankl was wearing a very thin gold wedding band, and he demanded that Frankl give it to him. His wedding band was the last vestige of any connection Frankl had to the life he had known. He said that as he reached down to pull off the wedding band, something happened inside of him. He said he touched a place inside himself that he would later call the last authentic human freedom, a freedom that every individual has… the freedom to decide how one will respond.
Viktor Frankl said in that moment he exercised that freedom for the first time consciously when something rose up inside of him, and he said to himself, no matter what you do to me, you cannot make me live in hatred.
I find his response incredible… almost unbelievable. How could he have found it within himself to respond in this way? Then I am reminded that, what is within us, is greater that anything outside of us. The freedom to choose how one will respond is a freedom that is available to each of us. In any circumstance, each of us has available to us this same kind of liberating freedom to choose gratitude over greed, love over hatred, compassion over contempt, forgiveness over resentment. Each of us has the opportunity to choose the incredible. What circumstance are you facing today? Where do you have an opportunity to exercise the last authentic human freedom… the freedom to respond?