If you know your “why,” any “how” is possible.
We’ve just experienced one of the saddest, most tragic moments in American history. And like the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Assassination of President John Kennedy, and the explosion of the Challenger, we’ll never forget September 11 and the attack on the World Trade Center.
Like all of you, I’ve been dealing with feelings of disbelief, anger, and incredible sadness. I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to make “sense” of all this. I only know that our lives will never be the same.
The one thing we cannot do is lose our spirit. We cannot allow ourselves to be demoralized. That would do nothing but give our enemies another victory. We must show more spirit and more unity than ever before.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. But I have learned this. To get through great loss and great tragedy, YOU MUST BELIEVE IN SOMETHING BIGGER THAN YOURSELF AND YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES. You must believe in something so good, so grand, and so powerful, that no matter what, you won’t be brought down.
Perhaps you believe in God, or America, or the ultimate triumph of good over evil. Whatever it is, you need a belief or a purpose that will get you through crises and onto victory.
I learned that from my research on the holocaust of World War II. I wondered how people made it through that horrible event in human history. So I visited such places as the concentration camp at Dachau and the Shrine to the Holocaust in Jerusalem. And I read numerous books on the subject.
The book that really caught my attention was the one by Dr. Vicktor Frankl. As a young Jewish psychiatrist, he was shipped off to Auschwitz. There in the worst of conditions, with little food, inadequate shelter, and horrendous torture, thousands of Jewish prisoners were forced into labor that went on month after month.
What amazed Dr. Frankl was the fact that some of the laborers survived. While others, in the same conditions, did not. From a pure physical standpoint, Dr. Frankl expected that some of younger people, in their 20’s and 30’s, in the prime of life, would last a lot longer than the older folks. That’s not what he found.
Some of the younger people could not cope and died fairly quickly. Many of the older ones lasted a great deal longer, and many were alive when the Allies liberated the camps at the end of the war.
What Dr. Frankl found was the ones who made it through those circumstances had a purpose. They had a purpose that said, “I will do whatever it takes to get out of this place, to find my wife, to find my kids, to reunite my family.” It was that kind of belief that got them through the crisis.
Well Dr. Frankl survived the war. He moved to California and lived there, into his 90’s, where he wrote a fascinating book about his experience. His book, Man’s Search for Meaning, is something you must read, but in case you haven’t, it can be summarized in one sentence. He said, “If you know your ‘why,’ any ‘how’ is possible.”
In other words, if you know why you’re working so hard, if you know what you stand for, if you know what’s really really important, you can make it through almost anything. Purpose will give you staying power, and staying power, more often than not, will give you victory.
So in this time of national tragedy, make sure you know what’s most important in life. Hang on to that. And make sure you’re very clear about what you stand for. If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.
As I said, you’ve got to believe in something bigger than yourself and your circumstances. For many of you, that will be your faith or your God. And for those of you who get your strength from that, I offer this poem from Annie Johnson Flint.
BUT I LOOK UP…
I look not back; God knows the fruitless efforts, the wasted hours, the sinning, the regrets. I leave them all with Him who blots the record, and graciously forgives, and then forgets.
I look not forward; God sees all the future, the road that–short or long–will lead me home, and He will face with me its every trial, and bear for me the burdens that may come.
I look not round me; then would fears assail me, so wild the tumult of earth’s restless seas, so dark the world, so filled with woe and evil, so vain the hope of comfort and of ease.
I look not inward; that would make me wretched; for I have naught on which to stay my trust. Nothing I see save failures and shortcomings, and weak endeavors, crumbling into dust.
But I look up-into the face of God, for there my heart can rest, my fears are stilled. And there is joy, and love, and light for darkness–and perfect peace, and every hope fulfilled.
Action: You need to believe in something bigger than your circumstances. What do you believe in? Write it down. And if you don’t know the answer, find an answer. Tough times lie ahead, and it is your belief and your faith that will get you through these tough times. It is my biggest hope that our national tragedy will bring out more goodness, more strength, more unity, more spirit, and more conviction than ever before. May God bless America, and may our best days be ahead.