There are a million and one reasons to be stressed out today. Ask any college grad their future plans to hear an earful about our current job market. Ask young parents how they feel about the future for the child to hear about the banquet of issues we face as a species. Geez, even ask anyone, American or not, about the issues they feel impact them and be prepared to hear all about the current issues we are facing within our political system, within our justice system, with climate change, with gender and racial inequality.
There are, as stated above, a million and one issues currently plaguing us, and every single one is valid. So in a world that feels like it’s falling apart at the seams, and it’s seemingly one button away from destruction, how do we find peace? Where does it lie? When it feels we are led by politicians who do not have our best interest in mind, when we are lied to by organizations attempting to make money off of our misfortune, when hate and violence seem to be pulsing through the veins of our fellow humans, how do we not take each step with anger, with sadness, shame, or self-pity? Where does the peace lie?
Luckily for us, this is not a new question for humanity. In his journal, Marcus Aurelius jotted down notes to remind himself where his peace lies. In 1942, Viktor Frankl and his family were moved into a concentration camp by the Nazi regime. He found himself arm and arm with thousands of others during one of humanity’s worst atrocities, during a time where crimes against humanity were so absurd that there was no guarantee his family would live through the day. During an era where the political system was sanctioning the genocide of a group of human beings, where the world was preparing for war, where his fellow prisoners often did not return. In a time where anyone would be allowed to be upset, to “vent” about their situation, to dwell in self-pity, Frankl stated, “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.” To choose One’s Own Way…
“Where a man can live, a man can live well,” Marcus Aurelius tells himself in his journal. It doesn’t matter where we are, or who we are with, because we always have the ability to choose our own attitude. “You can’t change your situations, but you can always change yourself,” Viktor Frankl reminds us.
What Marcus and Viktor are telling us is that what occurs to us is external. What others do around us is out of our control. What is said about us, and the mean interactions that others may facilitate around us do not matter, and they do not provide us with an excuse to lose our peace.
I have been fortunate enough to travel around the United States, meeting and working with thousands of individuals, from the youngest to the oldest stages of life. While everyone is a unique individual, we all seem to follow a very similar path in terms of our behavior. We observe a situation occur in the world, and then we let that decide how we behave. “It’s not my fault that I’m angry, our country elected Trump,” “They upset me by using harsh words,” “My neighbor never cleans their side, and the impact it has on my home’s value stresses me out.”
We all do this, from youth, to college grads, two parents, and above. We unknowingly, but willingly allow the world to dictate our peace of mind, but it does not have to be this way. If the clerk at the grocery store gives us a horse remark, if our political system does not seem up to par, if our spouse is upset after work, this does not have to define our mood, our day, or our life. Frankl tells us once more that, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” In our response lies our peace. No matter what stimulus the world throws at you, always, always choose internal peace.
To close, that reflect on Martin Luther King Jr’s quote, “Let no man drag you down low enough to hate him.” But let’s take that one step further. Do not allow hate or even angst to drag you down, to affect your mood, to enter your soul, because that, right there, in your soul, is where the peace lies.