To Be Worthy of Our Suffering
--by Viktor E. Frankl (Jan 12, 2009)
Dostoevski said once, "There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings." These words frequently came to my mind after I became acquainted with those martyrs whose behavior in [concentration] camp, whose suffering and death bore witness to the fact that the last inner freedom cannot be lost. It can be said that they were worthy of their sufferings; the way they bore their suffering was a genuine inner achievement. It is this spiritual freedom -- which cannot be taken away -- that makes life meaningful and purposeful, [...]
Do not think that these considerations are unworldly and too far removed from real life. It is true that only a few people are capable of reaching such high moral standards. Of the prisoners only a few kept their full inner liberty and obtained those values which their suffering afforded, but even one such example is sufficient proof that man's inner strength may raise him above his outward fate. Such men are not only in concentration camps. Everywhere man is confronted with fate, with the chance of achieving something through his own suffering. [...]
Like the story of a young woman whose death I witnessed in a concentration camp. It is a simple story. There is little to tell and it may sound as if I had invented it; but to me it seems like a poem.
This young woman knew that she would die in the next few days. But when I talked to her she was cheerful inspite of this knowledge. "I am grateful that fate has it me so hard," she told me."In my former life I was spoiled and did not take spiritual accomplishments seriously."' Pointing through the window of the hut, she said,"This tree here is the only friend I have in my loneliness." Through that window she could see just one branch of a chestnut tree and on the branch were two blossoms. "I often talk to this tree," she said to me. I was startled and didn't quite know how to take her words. Was she delerious? Did she have occasional hallucinations? Anxiously I asked her if the tree replied. "Yes." What did it say to her? She answered," It said to me,' I am here -- I am here -- I am life, eternal life.'"
- Viktor E. Frankl, from "Man's Search for Meaning"