Even if you’ve never actually read any books about the diaries of Anne Frank, I have to believe that by simply saying her name, you have recognition of who she was and what she lived through and that her spirit shone through all of it. If you don’t have a single clue, stop reading this now and do a search on “Anne Frank” and find some of this out!
Anne Frank is remembered for several quotes that speak of her gracious spirit. Some of them include, “I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more” and “I must uphold my ideals, for perhaps the time will come when I shall be able to carry them out”. But my favorite, and to me the most memorable, was taken from a longer diary entry but says, on its own, “…because, in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
Although my life experiences have given me plenty of reason to be cynical – and I am cynical to a small degree – I still carry on much of the hope that was part of Anne Frank’s being. For example, I trust people to be their authentic selves with me because I present my authentic self to them. I love people freely not despite their flaws, but despite my own. When I began working through my issues and still carrying around the ways people hurt me, reminding myself that they were good people who made bad choices helped me reach forgiveness so much faster. In many presidencies, when I’ve disagreed with political choices that I felt hindered humanity as a whole, I reminded myself that the President didn’t wake up in the morning, look in the mirror, and ask himself, “Hmmm, what can I do to F___ up the country today?” I used this tactic often, as well, as I looked at some of the ways my parents parented, reminding myself that they didn’t wake up and ponder how they could screw up their kids that day.
There are a few definitions of the word hope, but all of them center around the idea of a want for something to happen or to be true, and usually have a good reason to think that it might. Anne Frank, despite hiding out in a darkened attic while Germany attempted to occupy the Netherlands and to take all Jews into concentration camps, kept hope alive in her heart and in her being.
I can easily admit that it isn’t easy holding on to hope as we look at our world today. I still want the world to somehow right itself, but my reasoning that it might has reached an all-time low. And yet, there is always a glimmer of hope present. Like Anne Frank, I believe that people are basically good. They may be acting out in really bad ways, but I can also step back and ponder that they have never been taught how to deal with the anger and distaste of what is happening. I surely did not have a good role model for dealing with anger and the sense of being out-of-control. In fact, I exhibited some of the behaviors that I was taught for many years. Like many of our behaviors, we use what we’ve been taught to use. And so while inappropriate use of that anger is still a choice, it may well be that those doing so don’t know any better/anything different. Each of us must choose to break the cycle of things we’ve been taught – from racism to sexual abuse to hatred and anger. We must be willing to look inside ourselves and question if what we experienced in learning those things are what we want to teach others. But we need a safe place in order to process that – and a strong desire to want to change. As a survivor of childhood incest, I would NEVER want someone else to suffer the damage that occurred to me through that. As a child for whom discipline contained a wooden paddle and suffering beneath it until the user’s anger had subsided, I would NEVER want to terrorize anyone with the kind of fear (and welts) I suffered through. My wish is that each person suffering from fear and anger would find a way to manage those emotions in much healthier ways. Unlike Anne Frank, I don’t believe without question that it will happen… or at least, not in my remaining lifetime. And I admit that, on rare occasion, my anger still gets the better of me and I lash out with my weapon of choice – my words – in an inappropriate and hurtful way. But I’m immediately contrite in those rare instances and own up to and apologize for my inappropriate behavior.
Let’s be honest – I don’t have the answer for how to fix what is going on in our society today. But I can encourage you to take a step back from people who are creating the havoc and try to be compassionate in understanding what motivates them to behave in the ways they are choosing to behave. Try and recognize what they may have suffered or are still suffering that makes them behave that way. It will not change them. But it might change you…