Yesterday's quote about Abraham Lincoln was from Rabbi Harold S. Kushner's book Overcoming Life's Disappointments. And as I mentioned in my post, since mine is a secular blog, I don't feel comfortable discussing theology. However, I finished the book last night, and realized that Kushner's message transcends religion, so I've decided to share it with you.
"Kushner turns to the experience of Moses to find the requisite lessons of strength and faith...because Moses was a man whose soaring triumphs were upset by crushing defeats in some of the things that mattered most to him...His people don't listen to him, he is denied entrance to the Promised Land, his family suffers. But he overcomes."
For me, what Kushner says is particularly important because during my last depressive episode, I realized that I have viewed my illness as a "crushing defeat," my inability to achieve wellness as a failure, which I have been unable to overcome, and I have been sorely disappointed.
Kushner writes: "Perhaps failure and disappointment can teach us that we may fail at one thing, we may fail at several things, but that does not mean we are failures as people. The worth of a person's soul is not measured by his or her bank account or the volume of applause a person evokes, but by one's humanity, by one's compassion, even by the courage to keep on dreaming amid the broken pieces of your earlier dreams.
"True success consists not in becoming the person you dreamed of becoming when you were young, but in becoming the person you were meant to be..."
Kushner goes on to quote Viktor Frankel, a prominent Jewish psychiatrist who was interned in a concentration camp, and is the author of Man's Search for Meaning. "Looking back at his Auschwitz experience, he [Frankel] wrote, "Everything can be taken from a man but the last of the human freedoms, the right to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances."
"In other words, what happens to you , no matter how hurtful or unfair, is ultimately less important than what you do about what happens to you."
Kushner concludes his book by talking about the blessings in the Bible. "What sort of blessings were these? I can only understand the phrase a 'full and complete blessing' to mean the experience of life in its fullness, tasting everything life has to offer, the bitter and the sweet, the honey and the bee stings, love and loss, joy and despair, hope and rejection. The blessing of completeness means a full life, not an easy life, a hard road, not an easy one, a life that strikes the black keys and the white ones so that every available emotional tone is sounded.
"If you have been brave enough to love, and sometimes you have won and sometimes you have lost; if you have cared enough to try, and sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't; if you have been bold enough to dream and found yourself with some dreams that came true and a lot of broken dreams that didn't, that fell to earth and shattered, then you can look down on the mountaintop you now find yourself standing on, like Moses contemplating the tablets that would guide human behavior for millennia, resting in the Ark alongside the broken fragments of an earlier dream. And you, like Moses, can realize how full your life has been and how richly you have been blessed."