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How Hardship Can Give Us the Tools to Do Good

Victor Frankl and Elie Wiesel survived pain and suffering during the Holocaust to make the world a better place. 

Understanding hardship

If we let them, our negative experiences in life can hold us back from reaching our goals, trying new things and much more. As humans, we have a tendency to dwell on our bad experiences; they can prevent us from moving forward as we fear what has happened in the past. Although we can’t change the past or forget the dreadful things that have happened to us, if we try, we can find lessons within these experiences. How we interpret our hardships shapes how we live today. It doesn’t lessen the pain or suffering, but it can make us stronger.

When I think of people who have suffered great hardships, the writers Victor Frankl and Elie Wiesel come to mind. These two individuals along with many others survived the unimaginable evil and sufferings of the Holocaust; yet, they have greatly impacted thousands of lives since. Frankl said, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” Though this is true, living with the past wasn’t an easy task for those who survived this tragic time in history, but they continued to live their lives with purpose and helped others.

After several months in concentration camps, Frankl returned to Vienna, where he developed and lectured about his own approach to psychological healing. He believed that people are primarily driven by a “striving to find meaning in one’s life,” and that it is this sense of meaning that enables people to overcome painful experiences. Wiesel continued on to become a professor of humanities, help establish the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., campaign for victims of oppression in places like South Africa and Nicaragua and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.

Thankfully, most of us have not faced the devastatingly cruel conditions that those imprisoned in the concentration camps did. But each of us has faced our own hardships in life, and if we can find lessons within these experiences and discover our “why” to live, we can flourish because of them.

Lord, help us to turn our pain and hardship into tools to do good.

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