30 Minute Meditations on Being Human from the Life and Writings of Viktor Frankl, Day 12: Honoring American Soldiers

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Viktor Frankl

Honorary Citizen of Austin, Texas

 

Lesson for the Day: Have an attitude of gratitude for American soldiers and the sacrifices they make to liberate oppressed peoples, even to the point of giving their lives for others.

“It really is not appropriate that you make me an honorary citizen. It would be more fitting if I make you an honorary logotherapist. Had not so many young soldiers from Texas, among them several from your city, risked and even sacrificed their lives, there would be no Frankl and no logotherapy today. You see, it was your Texas soldiers who liberated me and many others from the camp at .”

Source: Viktor E. Frankl, Viktor Frankl Recollections: An Autobiography, trans. Joseph Fabry and Judith Fabry (New York, N.Y.: Plenum Press, 1997), p. 101.

30 Minute Meditations on Being Human from the Life and Writings of Viktor Frankl, Day 10: The Last of Human Freedoms

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Lesson for the Day: You always retain the freedom to choose how you respond to adversity and suffering.

“We who lived in the concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread.  There may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that 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.”

Source: Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, 3rd ed. (New York, N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, 1984), p. 75.

30 Minute Meditations on Being Human from the Life and Writings of Viktor Frankl, Day 8: Ascribing Dignity to Every Human Being

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Viktor Frankl

Lesson for the Day: Dignity (respect) is to be ascribed to all human beings, even those who, through committing evil acts, don’t deserve it.

“‘What is man that you are mindful of him?’ ‘He is a reed,’ said Pascal, ‘but a reed which thinks!’ And it is in this thinking, this consciousness, this responsibility that constitute the dignity of man, the dignity of each individual human being. And it is always to be ascribed to the individual person whether he preserves this dignity or tarnishes it. Whereas the first behavior is personal merit, the second constitutes personal guilt.”

Source: Viktor E. Frankl, Psychotherapy and Existentialism: Selected Papers on Logotherapy (New York, N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1967), pp. 110-111.

30 Minute Meditations on Being Human from the Life and Writings of Viktor Frankl, Day 7: From Self-Transcendence to Self-Fulfillment

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Viktor Frankl Lecturing

Lesson for the Day: Being for others; doing for others; going out of oneself to others; unselfish service for others: Dr. Frankl calls that “self-transcendence.” It gives meaning to life, fulfilling a person.

“Being human is being always directed, and pointing, to something or someone other than oneself: to a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter, a cause to serve or a person to love. Only to the extent that someone is living out this self-transcendence of human existence, is he truly human or does he become his true self. He becomes so, not by concerning himself with his self’s actualization, but by forgetting himself and giving himself, overlooking himself and focusing outward.”

Source: Viktor E. Frankl, The Unheard Cry for Meaning: Psychotherapy and Humanism, rev. ed. (New York, N.Y.: Washington Square Press, 1978, Washington Square Press ed. 1985), p. 38.

30 Minute Meditations on Being Human from the Life and Writings of Viktor Frankl, Day 3: The Paradox to Happiness

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Dr. Frankl with a Patient

Lesson for the Day: To “find” yourself, your identity, you must “lose” (forget) yourself.

A human being “finds himself only to the extent to which he loses himself in the first place, be it for the sake of something or somebody, for the sake of a cause or a fellowman, or ‘for God’s sake.’”

Source: Viktor E. Frankl, Psychotherapy and Existentialism: Selected Papers on Logotherapy (New York, N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1967), p. 82.

What It Means to Have Heart

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Viktor and Elly Frankl, with Jerry Long

The Meaning of Heart

What does it mean to have heart? It is, of course, not the physical organ in a human body. Rather, heart is an inner mental or spiritual faculty, the inner strength of a person. Heart, then, is rooted in the spirit, specifically, the defiant power of the human spirit. Heart is deeper than the head, because it is possible to be hightly intelligent and not have heart. Similarly, heart is deeper than physical strength, for it is possible to be strong but lack heart.

To have heart is a moral virtue, which is called “fortitude.” Heart is the will to go on, keep moving forward, not give up on a worthwhile pursuit, whatever it may be. Therefore, heart is the strength of the human spirit that becomes stronger by resolving to face and endure, if not overcome, life’s challenges and adversities.

Because heart is a virtue, it can be taught, transmitted to others. Leaders, such as mothers, fathers, teachers and coaches, can inspire others, by words and example, to believe in themselves, their innate worth or value as persons. When that happens, they literally become enthusiastic, that is, aware of the God that is in them and discover their God-given talents.

Jerry Long: An Example of Heart

Jerry Long (d. 2004) was an example of heart. Despite his disability, having broken his neck and becoming a quadriplegic, he went to college and graduated.  Then he went to graduate school and earned a Ph.D. The motto by which he lived was “I broke my neck, it didn’t break me.”1

Obviously, then, a person’s body can be battered, subdued and even crushed, but not his or her spirit. It is possible, depending on a person’s decision, for him or her to become invictus, “unconquered.” The inner resolve to be that way is called “heart.”

Heart in Athletics

Those who have heart may not be the best athletes but they keep on trying to become better at their sport. In competition, they may be knocked down but something deep inside keeps saying to them, “Get back up and resume playing.” That “something deep inside” is called “heart.”

Heart has a lot to do with a person’s attitude. For example, the person who chooses to finish a race, even if he or she comes in last, viewing the completion as a personal accomplishment, has heart. Again, someone may not be in the starting lineup of a team but if he or she is there to support the teammates — and, when needed, to play to the best of his or her ability, to give everything to the game, then that person has heart.

Those with heart know by experience that losing to an opponent is disappointing. Physically and emotionally, it hurts! The emotional hurt is often worse than the physical pain itself. However, to have heart is also to have faith in the future, despite the disappointment of the moment, believing that a loss, as heartbreaking as it may be, is one step closer to a win.

Those who have heart know the difference between losing and being a loser. For them, losing a game is something that happens to them, an activity in which they participate. But they also recognize that playing a game is different from being a person and, therefore, they will not allow themselves be defined by a loss. Thus, they may lose a game but, as persons, they are not losers.

Heart in the Classroom

Those with heart may not be the smartest students in the classroom but they won’t drop out of a course. They refuse to believe that they are failures. Instead, they believe that failure is something that happens to them. It is not what they are as persons. That is why they won’t give up on themselves, especially when they receive an average or below average grade.

Students who have heart have the mental strength to rebound from the disappointment of failure, being determined to do better on the next quiz or exam. For them, failing is one step closer to passing; a wrong answer is one step closer to the right one. In their heart, they know that they “gave it their all,” doing the best they possibly could. That is why they graduate from high schools, colleges or universities, even though they may not be at the top of their class.

Heart in Everyday Life

Heart does not merely pertain to athletics and education. To have heart is really about life itself. There are many other examples of heart, even though they may not be obvious to some people. If one has social anxiety disorder, it takes heart to be around other people. Not taking a sip of alcohol each day, if one is an alcoholic, requires heart. Sometimes, just getting out of bed in the morning requires heart, especially if a person is prone to depression or hopelessness. Completing a difficult day at work takes heart, because one has endured problems from the beginning to the end of the day.

Those with heart may not be the best, athletically; the strongest, physically, or the brightest, academically; but they are great souls, just as great as those who possess superior talents. The reason they are great is that they are striving to be the best at being themselves. No can really ask from them anymore than that!

Endnote

A letter from Jerry Long to Viktor Frankl, quoted in Man’s Search for Meaning, 3rd ed. (New York, N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, 1984), p. 148.