Hope in a Hopeless Place

Below is an excerpt from a book I am currently reading. This book was written by a prisoner in a German concentration camp. He writes about how he and his fellow prisoners kept their hope in such a hopeless place.

“A man who let himself decline because he could not see any future goal found himself occupied with retrospective thoughts…in robbing the present of its reality there lay a certain danger. It became easy to overlook the opportunities to make something positive of camp life, opportunities which really did exist…

…Such people forgot that often it is just such an exceptionally difficult external situation which gives man the opportunity to grow spiritually beyond himself. Instead of taking the camp’s difficulties as a test of their inner strength, they did not take their life seriously and despised it as something of no consequence. They preferred to close their eyes and to live in the past. Life for such people became meaningless…

…To the others of us, the mediocre and the half-hearted, the words of Bismarck could be applied: ‘Life is like being at the dentist. You always think that the worst is still to come, and yet it is over already.’ Varying this, we could say that most men in a concentration camp believed that the real opportunities of life had passed. Yet, in reality, there was an opportunity and a challenge. One could make a victory of those experiences, turning life into an inner triumph, or one could ignore the challenge and simply vegetate, as did a majority of the prisoners.”

~ “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl

Now if he’s writing about maintaining hope in a concentration camp, how much more should we, who are free, take these words to heart?