I have listened to graduation speeches and wondered, “What would I say if I had the opportunity and responsibility to speak?” In all seriousness, this is what came to mind.
I am neither a genetic nor an environmental determinist. In plain terms, though I recognize that the way we are “wired” and what we have “experienced” impact us tremendously, I ardently believe our choices determine who we are and who we will become during our lifetime.
It saddens me when I watch people run from the opportunity to take responsibility for their lives. Too often they seem to possess faulty perceptions, wallow in woundedness that circumstances and people have inflicted on them, or passively rely upon the well intended though misguided over-involvement and support of others. In essence, some surrender their lives to self hatred, pain, or dependency. Life for them becomes a crippling captivity rather than the adventurous journey it is meant to be.
Viktor Frankl decisively contends that the surrender to a living death is a matter of personal choice. As a holocaust survivor, he saw and learned much from personal experience about the nature of humanity.
In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl states:
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. They may have been few in number, but they offered sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
…in the final analysis it (became) clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone. Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him—mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp. Pg 75
Most people have heard of Stephen Covey’s life changing book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Few, I think, are aware of its subtitle: Restoring the Character Ethic. In this work, Covey builds upon Frankl’s compelling argument for personal responsibility as an advocate of proactivity.
Just as the great philosopher Plato stated that “an unexamined life is not worth living,” Covey challenges each of us to scrutinize our lives, our motives, our principles, and our paradigms—all as a part of embracing responsibility, truth, choice, and character. In doing so, we intentionally make them a part of who we are.I want to challenge you to do the same.
Covey states: The more we are aware of our basic paradigms, maps, or assumptions, and the extent to which we have been influenced by our experience, the more we take responsibility for those paradigms, examine them, test them against reality, listen to others and be open to their perceptions, thereby getting a larger picture and a far more objective view. Pg 29
This is not a call to turn your back upon all that you have lived and believed to this point in your life. To the contrary, it is about seeking truth that liberates and eradicates the lies that enslave us. We must be vigilant in determining what principles we will live by and die for. Principles inform and guide our decisions; they impact our choices, and consequently determine who and what we will become in this life.
As the famous author, Emerson, declared, “What you are shouts so loudly in my ears that I cannot hear what you say.”
None can pretend forever. What we truly choose to become will not be hidden forever. We can be sure the truth will find us out.
So my charges to you, the reader, are these: Become a person of strong character. Live proactively, take responsibility for your life, your choices, and who you will become. Resist the temptation to live a mean, self centered life and passive existence. Pursue truth, truth that establishes the maps through life and teaches you how to live it effectively. Find the answers to the big questions about life’s meaning and why God has put you here.
I sincerely wish you the very best of God’s blessings.
We humans have an aversion to reading books others have decided are “good” for us. (Bet it goes back to an innate desire to make our own decisions—wiring (free will and fallen nature) — and post educational trauma =) Therefore, I will indulge myself only to inflict a suggested reading/viewing list. I could go on for pages, but will stop at these. I can only hope you will experience the life changing “lift” offered by the truths within these works if you choose to consider them and break free from the “drag” of experience and genetics.
Books:Atlas Shrugged Boundaries by Cloud &Townsend Safe People by Cloud and Townsend
Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning
Covey’s 7 Habits of highly Effective People
C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity
McGee’s Search for Significance
Peacemaker, by Sande
Works by Os Guinness and David Noble