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  • Writer's pictureD. Randall Faro

Your Choice

Viktor Frankl wrote: A human being is a deciding being.

Frankl spent four years in several Nazi concentration camps where his father, mother, brother, and wife all died. During his years of incarceration he observed many who gave up and expired, and many others who survived. It was his observation that in most cases the survivors lived because they decided to not give up. The above quote reflects Frankl’s belief that how life is experienced results from the choices one makes. Be they conscious or subconscious, human decisions can directly and dramatically determine the course of one’s life.

To be sure, there are a myriad of events in life beyond one’s control. Yet in every case, what IS within an individual’s control is the decision on how to respond to whatever is happening. The Academy Award winning Italian film, Life Is Beautiful, illustrates this wonderfully. Guido and his son are imprisoned in a Nazi camp. The story is about how Guido protects his son – and perhaps his own sanity – with a positive attitude in spite of their horrendous circumstances. This was a conscious choice on his part.

U.S. Marines in Vietnam had the opportunity to make decisions that would result in very different outcomes depending on which ones were made. Some were hardened by the circumstances and reacted by thinking of all “gooks” as evil, and treating them as vermin to be exterminated. Others, experiencing the same circumstances, chose to think of the “enemy” as human beings who probably wished there was no war as much as we did. I was fortunate to be an officer in an engineer battalion, which enabled us to aid many communities in self-help projects. We found that when we treated the locals with dignity and respect, they responded with gratitude and like mindedness.

When wronged, human nature seems programmed to automatically seek revenge. An ungodly percentage of movies and TV series are built around the theme of someone seeking (and usually getting) revenge on another. To seek revenge is a choice. So also is the decision to forgive.

In Steven Hunter’s book, Point of Impact, an FBI colleague says to Nick Memphis: “You’re a walking testimony to the human power to forgive.” Nick seems to realize that the only thing that costs more than forgiveness is to not forgive.

In making decision, a key question is: What will lead to the greatest well-being . . . my own, another’s, the community’s? The answer isn’t always obvious, but a responsible person will always struggle to discern what appears to be the prudent one.

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