I love Victor Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning. It is both the story of a doctor's heroic work to save the dignity of holocaust victims and his own therapeutic model developed largely from those experiences. It is a tour de force on attitude.
In thinking about attitude as it relates to my dissertation I wanted to draw on Frankl's amazing work. I kept running across this quotation attributed to Man's Search for Meaning.
"Between stimulus and response, there is a space.
In that space lies our freedom and our power to choose our
In our response lies our growth and our happiness."
It is alternatively quoted:
"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."
This is a profound idea and is strongly supportive of the human power of choice.
Now, here's the rub. This quote is often attributed to Viktor Frankl, and maybe he said it. It is also (in Goodreads among countless other sources) attributed specifically to Man's Search for Meaning.
The statement is not in the book.
I am now amused when I read blogs by people who thoughtfully speak of how much they love Man's Search for Meaning and quote this statement. If they really love the book they should know they didn't find the quote there. It is possible that it's in an earlier edition, but if it is, and it's so popular, why was it left out of later editions?
I suspect the attibution of this quotation is the product of over-enthusastic readers of Stephen Covey's work who do not pay close enough attention to what Covey himself said. The closest association Dawn and I could find to Frankl and this statement was in Steven Covey's forward to the book Prisoners of Our Thoughts: Viktor Frankl's Principles for discovering meaning in life and work by Alex Pattakos (p. vi). And this is where it get's a little mystical. Covey does not attribute the statement to Frankl, but instead he quotes it from memory and notes its affirmation of his reading in Frankl's work. This is what Covey has to say about the quotation:
"I did not note the name of the author, so I’ve never been able to give proper attribution. On a later trip to Hawaii I even went back to find the source and found the library building itself was no longer present" (p. vi).
So, I'm left feeling a little like a Pevense, returning to the spare room to open the wardrobe to find not only Narnia and the coats, but, in fact, the wardrobe itself is gone. Who gave words to this profound idea? Is it Covey himself? Is the book in which he found it a figment of an over-saturated mind soaked in a stream of thought?
If anybody knows who actually said this, I would love to find out.
Dawn and I love to travel. We find beautiful vistas at mountain overlooks. I am powerless to stop myself from taking hundreds of very similar pictures of the mountains rolling away into the distance with mist, sunshine, rocks, trees, colorful foliage, rivers or any other feature a person finds in the mountains. It makes me think of this verse:
A person's wisdom yields patience; it is to one's glory to overlook an offense. (Proverbs 19:11 TNIV)
We are in our 25th year together and I am thankful. We have something special. It is special for its value and beauty to me, not for any particular feature of our relationship that nobody else can have. This scripture sentence says volumes about what can make a relationship, whether it's a marriage, a friendship, or any other family connection good. It's in the overlooks.
Ask yourself this: "Can I be patient with the other's flaws?" If you can't chances are you are also not being wise according to Solomon. When I am being wise I am considering my own flaws. I am realizing that the other person in my life is not perfect just as I am not perfect. Chances are we have different imperfections from each other, but that does not make my imperfections any better or more acceptable than the other's. The fact that they are mine makes them look, to me, easier to live with. When I get short fused or demanding with the other, I am simply letting my own folly run away with me, and that too is a flaw. And now for the hard part.
I may be patient when I am wise, but I am glorious if I overlook an offense. What about that other person offends my sensibilities, my sense of order, my feelings of being cared for, my image of goodness, my conception of intelligence? If I can just realize that I am no easier to live with than anyone else and that my own quirks are just as annoying, just as upsetting, just as niggling as anyone else's, I can reach a point of give and take, a place of forgiveness. There are places in conflict resolution for confrontation and compromise, but in our self-centered society we often bypass this first obvious step: to simply choose to overlook something that offends me. Make no mistake, it is a choice, one that must be exercised often, sometimes constantly. We are unique individuals and that means we are different from each other and those differences will feel out of place. It is in the nature of being different.
It's like that mountain overlook. If I could get down into that mountain from my lofty height, I would see the litter left by campers, the droppings left by animals, the dangers, the impassible paths, the holes, rocks, and ruts, the rotting logs. But if my view is to be glorious, from that ridge looking down into the valley, I choose to ignore those trouble spots and see the bigger picture, the majestic panorama of the whole rather than the distraction that the smaller parts can become.
We are called by Solomon to allow our wisdom to shine like a glorious star, to be and, as a bonus, to appear to others to be a wonderful person of depth and beauty. We can be that person. It is in the level of personal stability we can find in living with the differences and the flaws of others. When my friend, spouse, sibling, parent, or adult child becomes an irritant, it's probably more my problem than it is theirs. Often others are just being who they are while I am expecting them to be someone else for my benefit.
Of course some readers will be thinking, "I need to show this to someone else, so they can be wiser and more glorious in their patience and willingness to overlook something." Resist that defensive posture. Instead look at it for what you yourself can gain. Be the example in the relationship, the one who finds personal internal stability in accepting the other. Stand at the overlook and see the majesty of the bigger relational picture rather than allowing yourself to be sidetracked by smaller things. We are eternal beings in a temporary world. All of this is passing away as we speak. When we are weak, or old, or prone to problems these are manifestations of immediacy. Things of the spirit will last. That's where the glorious overlook can be found.
Pastor, Norma Mennonite Church.