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, Man’s Search for Meaning

I think this is a very important idea to master.  It makes no difference what is happening to you – it’s your attitude which often decides the outcome.

When I taught English I used this quote to introduce a story called “A Many Who Had No Eyes.”.  The story is about a wealthy, well-dressed business man wearing a fine suit and using a beautiful silver-handled cane, who leaves his office on a lovely spring day very aware of all the smells, sounds and sensations of the season.  He encounters a blind beggar who is rather dirty and smelly.  The beggar wants to sell him a lighter.  Though the man doesn’t need one, he buys the lighter to help the blind man out, and then asks, “Have you always been blind?”

The beggar, hoping to arouse some pity from the business man, to get more money, tells him how he was in the infamous fire at the chemical plant in the town, and how he had tried to get out, but was dragged back by others.

“Not quite,” says the business man, recognizing the beggar’s voice, and his story.  “It was you who dragged me back, and stepped on me to get out, leaving me there.”

The beggar splutters in surprise as he recognizes the man’s voice, “Well, but, but, you’ve been standing there all this while listening to me, and I’m blind, I’m blind!”

“Well,” says the business man, “don’t make such a row about it.  So am I.”

Each of these men had been in the same circumstance – one took to begging and feeling sorry for his plight; the other got educated and became successful.  The difference between the two men was in how they chose to deal with the difficulties life threw at them.  The attitude each chose created their path in life.

Sometimes it’s a hard thing to accept, but each of us is responsible for the life choices we make, for the life we lead, and for its outcome.  But responsibility doesn’t mean blame.  It has to do with the way you respond to what life hands you.  This can be tough to swallow when life hands you something unfair or unkind; but you can choose to not be a victim, but a survivor.

So life is not always just – but no one said it would be.  What counts in any instance is that you can have an attitude about life’s circumstances that will send you forward, rather than an attitude that will hold you back for years.

Are you holding on to an anger from years ago?  Did you ever think about letting it go?  After all, it’s not hurting anyone else for you to be angry.  You can choose to be understanding.  Forgiving.  Think of the Amish who offered their condolences to the wife of the man who killed their families.  This is the true act of grace.

By the way, Viktor Frankl, author of the quote at the top,  was a holocaust survivor who lost everyone but his sister in the concentration camps.  Google him and you will find an amazing story of survival and positive outlook.

About Davina

I am a retired teacher, writer and artist. This web site was set up for several reasons. First is to give people a chance to see my art work, and decide if there is something they like enough to contact me. Second is to present my ideas on education and life in general - anything that gets my attention. Feel free to comment in an intelligent manner.
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7 Responses to Attitude

  1. Davina says:

    You are welcome, Linc. Please feel free to share this site with others.

  2. Terri says:

    I think William James: It is only by risking ourselves from one hour to another that we live at all.
    Living through enough we all come to this understanding: no matter what path we choose to honor, there will always be conflict to negotiate. If we chose to avoid conflict with others…eventually breed a poisonous conflict witin ourselves. If we manage to attend our inner lives we will sooner or later create some discord with those who would rather we be something else… The cost of being who you are is that …can’t possibly meet others’ expectations…inevitably …external conflict to deal with -the friction of being visible.
    “To thine own self be true.” and still be conscious of, considerate of, gentle with and generouos toward others. (my take)

    • Davina says:

      Thanks, Terri. I understand what James -and you – are saying. Yes, and if one knows oneself, and is true to oneself, then one is able to negotiate conflict by, as you wrote, “being conscious of, considerate of, and gentle with and towards others.” We never have to lose our inner peace because a conflict presents itself.

  3. Ron Goldin says:

    Hi Davina,

    I enjoy reading your blog. Times have been very trying lately and when I read your words I remember to breath and to think and to be in the moment. Thank you for writing and sending me emails to read your blog.

    Hope you are well and happy.

    Love,
    Ron

    • Davina says:

      Hi, Ron –
      I’m so happy to know that anything I write has been helpful. I hope things get better – you deserve to have the best of everything. Love and light to you – Davina

  4. Linda says:

    I think William James: It is only by risking ourselves from one hour to another that we live at all. Living through enough, we all come to this understanding: no matter what path we choose to honor, there will always be conflict to negotiate. If we chose to avoid conflict with others eventually we breed a poisonous conflict within ourselves. If we manage to attend to our inner lives we will sooner or later create some discord with those who would rather we be something else The cost of being who you are is that we can’t possibly meet others’ expectations. Inevitably there is external conflict to deal with – the friction of being visible. To thine own self be true. and still be conscious of, considerate of, gentle with and generous toward others. (my take)

    • Davina says:

      There is no question that if we are alive, there will be conflict. The point Frankl was making is that we get to choose how we address conflict. Frankl went through the holocaust, but he chose to be conscious enough to understand that he could choose to live a life that was not riddled with anger and recrimination. He did not avoid conflict, he faced it squarely, and lived his life as he chose. He chose to meet his own expectations, understanding that what others think of you is none of your business.

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