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The World’s Greatest Lie

And the Path to Freedom

By Kendel J. Christensen

Part II of VIII

 

I am the Captain of My Soul”

That’s just who I am,” “it is what it is,” “I can’t change,” “What can you do?” “I can’t help it.”

 

These are statements of victimhood. They are embodiments of the Greatest Lie. Lies are often potent precisely because there may be some truth to them—and everyone chooses their own way to cope. But that doesn’t preclude the fact that there may be other, more helpful ways to cope. Remember the corollary idea to being a victim, there is nothing I can do about it. While it may be true that you have some inherent weakness, or a truly horrible circumstance, or a condition, or even a debilitating illness, you can still choose to not be a victim. You can choose to decide the extent to which you can do something.

 

William George Jordan once said, “Man has two creators, his God and himself. The first creator furnishes him the raw materials of his life—the laws and conformity with which he can make that life what he will. The second creator—himself—has powers he rarely realizes. It is what a man makes of himself that counts.”

 

Here is what I take that to mean. I believe every human being—Every. Single. One—is here on this Earth for a marvellous purpose. To do or be something that no one else could do or be quite the same. Not all the purposes are the same. They are not “equal” in the sense that they have the same level of exceptionality or the same potential for worldwide impact (let’s be honest—there was only one Gandhi). But everyone is exceptional in at least one way.

 

You may have deep and persistent weaknesses, but is absolutely, 100% your choice to view yourself—and any circumstance you are in—as changeable. Changeable isn’t the same as “fixable” or able to be completely “solved”—it may very well be a big problem throughout your life. But you can still choose to view yourself as someone who can affect your situation in some way. Humans are remarkably malleable. Everyone can improve themselves.  And no one has improved themselves in every way completely. We all have untapped potential. We all have a range of “personal possibility.”

 

If, say, a condition truly does prevent you from achieving the same results as a completely healthy person, you can still choose to admit that you haven’t developed all of your personal potential, haven’t explored just how far your “range of possibility” extends. You can still choose to expect that there may be more distance yet to travel at the “edges” of what you currently think is possible. And what we expectwill happen has a surprisingly significant effect on the results we actuallyexperience.[1]

 

Instead of looking at your circumstance and making excuses for yourself, you can choose to say, “you know, this thing I am dealing with is extremely difficult, but I am going to assume that it can be improved upon in some way. I commit to exploring just how far I can go.” It may be the most difficult decision of your life—no one else can truly know the extent to which you feel you have “tried everything” so sincerely and for so long.[2]In the end, it is an intensely personal decision as to where we draw our line in the sand. Yet, it very well could be your drawing of that line that is the major barrier between you and the results your heart yearns for, the difference between an average life and an exceptional one.[3]

 

And I am still idealistic enough to say we can all approach life assuming[4]that we may be surprised what happens if we continually test our limits—to ask ourselves if we can’t take onemore stepover our line in the sand. Who knows what is possible if we simply choose to not give up, and take it with an open and patient mind. It is absolutely our choice. “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” We all fall, but it is our choice whether we get up and try again. It is what we make of ourselves that counts. If we think otherwise, we fall for the world’s Greatest Lie.

 

And we can make heroes of ourselves, even when circumstances contradict every rational reason to think so. Viktor Frankl, another one of my heroes, suffered in a concentration camp during World War II. He experienced and witnessed some of the most extreme depravity that humans have inflicted on other humans in the history of this world. Yet, he penned the following words:

 

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.[5]

 

Though our environment and our genes shape us significantly, there still exists that final human freedom: the freedom to choose how we will react. Under any circumstances, even if physically barred from taking action, we can still choose how we will interpret our situation. We are the masters of our fate, the captains of our souls. The more we embrace this idea[6], the more responsibility we take upon ourselves, the more free we become.

 

In the words of Ross Parmenter,

 

Personal freedom cannot grow beyond personal responsibility.

The more people that learn to be fully accountable for their lives, the more freedom each of us can enjoy and the more fulfilling all of our lives will be.”

 

…to be continued…


[1] See “Placebos & Nocebos: How Your Brain Heals and Hurts You” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtPe5lsoHXY

[2] A special note here: in your struggles, I hope you actively seek out the help of others. Too frequently we think we have to face things on our own. Often, it is accepting that we desperately need help, that we are the one that needs to be served for awhile, that offers a breakthrough or the strength to go on. No one should be alone, especially not in the trials that most affect us.

[3] Again, not everyone wants to be exceptional… but that result is largely if not solely their choice.

[4] In my opinion, the greatest triumph of human will is when we make that choice, when everything around us contradicts the reasonableness of that choice.

[5] Man’s Search for Meaning [1981], 74–75

[6] Within reason. As with everything, there are general principles and specific exceptions. Taking responsibility for something like being abused as a child would be a specific exception. In such cases, they would not responsible for what happened. They are only responsible for how they choose to react to it.

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