Horrible and devastating things happen in life. There is no way to escape them. People will hurt you, hate you, despise you, ridicule you, even if you are a genuinely good person. Even if you are a devoted friend, employee, or advocate – these attributes to your character will not always stop someone from betraying you and turning completely against you, or pursuing to harm you. Even if you are the one helping them the most! There are two things which I personally think are the hardest to bear in life: the pain of betrayal & the pain of loss.
When I was barely 14, I went to the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C. I’d never seen such human cruelty, and even though I’d read about it – Corrie Ten Boom’s survival through a death camp in The Hiding Place – nothing could’ve prepared me for the stories we heard and read and the things we saw in the museum. There were tv’s playing footage of Nazi officers dragging naked women’s bodies over te rough ground – the piles of the dead, literally piled on top of each other scattered everywhere – these things are burned into my mind. It was beyond inhumane – it was insanity.
There is one Jewish psychiatrist, Victor Frankl, who truly amazes me. He was trained in Freudian psychology, which deemed that the experiences in your childhood are what determined your character – for the rest of your life. He was among the people seized by the Nazi’s, and who had to endure their horrific and torturous death camps, and through his experience, changed psychology forever.
“His parents, his brother, and his wife died in the camps or were sent to the gas ovens. Except for his sister, his entire family perished. Frankl himself suffered torture and innumberable indignities, never knowing from one moment to the next if his path would lead to the ovens or if he would be among the “saved” who would remove the bodies or shovel out the ashes of those so fated.
One day, naked and alone in a small room, he began to become aware of what he later called “the last of the human freedoms” – the freedom his Nazi captors could not take away. They could control his environment, they could do what they wanted to his body, but Victor Frankl himself was a self-aware being who could look as an observer at his very involvement. His basic identity was intact. He could decide within himself how all of this was going to affect him. Between what happened to him, or the stimulus, and his response to it, was his freedom or power to choose that response.
In the midst of his experiences, Frankl would project himself into different circumstances, such as lecturing to his students after his release from the death camps. He would describe himself in the classroom, in his mind’s eye, and give his students the lessons he was learning during his very torture.
Through a series of such disciplines – mental, emotional, and moral, principally using memory and imagination – he exercised his small, embryonic freedom until it grew larger, until he had more freedom than his Nazi captors. They had more liberty, more options to choose from in their environment; but he had more freedom, more internal power to exercise his options. He became an inspiration to those around him, even to some of the guards. He helped others find meaning in their suffering and dignity in their prison existence.” (Covey)
You have the chance to choose. You can’t control what happens in life – what other people may decide to say or do to betray your trust in them. You can’t control death and the excrutiating pain of loss – loss of life or loss of a relationship, a love, a family member, a friend. Even if injustice is occuring to you, you have the ability to move beyond it – even when you’re currently enduring it!
Only you hold the power of your self-awareness and choices, if you choose to realize it.
You hold the key to decide how it’s going to affect you – if it will run you into the ground, or propel you beyond your wildest dreams. Let the pain of betrayal or loss inspire you – God will take care of vengence, it is not your’s to dwell on – however tempting that may be – vengance is a double-edged sword, the moment you plunge one end into your perpetrator, the other end also plunges into your own heart. Do not harm yourself and be distracted by revenge, instead let your pain inspire you and develop you – and teach you lessons you never would have learned.