Viktor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor whose concentration camp experiences shaped both his therapeutic approach and philosophical outlook. His life as a concentration camp inmate led him to discover the importance of finding meaning in all forms of existence, even the most sordid ones, and thus, a reason to continue living.
After three years of imprisonment during the Holocaust, he wrote Man’s Search for Meaning
He often said that even within the narrow boundaries of the concentration camps he found only two races of Men to exist: decent men and unprincipled men–and that these were to be found in all classes, ethnicities, and groups. And it stemmed from Attitude.
Here is what he said about Attitude: …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.” ― Viktor E. Frankl
One definition of attitude is that it’s an expression of favor or disfavor toward a person, place, thing, or event (the attitude object). Prominent psychologists describe attitudes as the most distinctive and indispensable concept in contemporary social psychology. But a deeper look at our attitudes will often expose our personal Character.
Character is what we are when we don’t have an audience–and also, at times, when we do have an audience–because it takes Character to stand up with courage if something crucially important needs to be said, or expressed with an action.
Of course, our attitudes reflect what we think is important, and attitudes can change. What’s important to a teenager is not what’s important to an adult. Some believe that a person’s Character is set and cannot be changed. Not so. But what can change it?
The character of Paul, the apostle, changed dramatically when he surrendered to God. Once he’d been a murderer of those who believed in Jesus; but his character was re-formed and he spread the good news of Jesus Christ all over the Gentile world. How did this happen?
In Paul’s words from First Corinthians: By God’s grace I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not ineffective.
Paul’s new life in Christ is Biblical evidence that the grace of God can change character. And give that person’s character a new meaning. Haven’t you seen the character of some people change for the better? Don’t you know of people who have changed the entire meaning of their lives from insignificant to significant? I know I have.
This change may come after surviving a crisis, through a prompt of Grace that brings about a personal re-assessment of our life. Or it may come during great suffering, when we search for meaning. Or it may come because God keeps giving us those divine pushes, and all we have to do is go along.
No matter the circumstance, and however it comes, when we go with God, things get better.