There are times when all of us we feel trapped in some way. We might feel trapped in a job we no longer enjoy, in a marriage that defies reconciliation, or in a financial or health crisis that appears hopeless.
Though our heart longs to escape, we have few options but to endure. What options do remain are bad or worse. And often it’s difficult to tell which is which.
Few situations are as bad as fighting for survival in a Nazi concentration camp. Everything you had, and likely took for granted, was stripped away: your freedom, your dignity, even your name. Prisoner 119104 was one of the few who survived. What Viktor Frankl witnessed there however can make a huge difference in how you respond when you feel trapped:
“We who lived in 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 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.”
The discipline to choose a serving attitude during intense adversity made an unusually taxing existence meaningful for these men. Their bodies may have been held captive, but not their spirits. With little to give, they gave. Though they did not know the time of their liberation—or even if liberation would come—they chose to ease the burden of their fellow travelers as best they could.
And so it is with us, especially when we feel trapped; when it seems so much has already been taken from us. It’s then that our best choice is simply to give something away. A compliment. A smile. An offer to help or to pray.
Choosing to give to another in the midst of our own need is an act of defiance. We refuse to accept that we have no choice. Instead, we choose to exercise the last of the human freedoms—our attitude—and by so doing, start picking away at the walls of our own confinement.
What choices do you make when you feel trapped?