To choose one’s attitude

We had a nice long talk tonight with my online men’s group, The Battery Pack, regarding the second tenet of the Man Uncivilized program we are a part of, which is to Be Your Brother’s Keeper.  We talked about ways we can be there for each other, and ways we could have used someone to be there for us in the past.  Some men are going through big life changes, while others are more settled but trying to find ways to help and guide others.  I also broke my ankle just over three weeks ago, and finally managed to read part of the stack of books I have been building, and a common vein through it all struck me during our conversation tonight … helping others is one of the first steps you must take down the path of helping yourself. 

The start of the conversation had me wondering why such a smart man would put a tenet about helping others so early in his list; shouldn’t you have to work on yourself more before you start worrying about sharing that information with others.  Looking at it now, that was just my imposter syndrome sneaking in … probably something that also keeps me from writing for this blog as often as I would like to.  What I realized after all my reading and our talk tonight, was that there is always going to be room for improvement, but that doesn’t mean you can’t share what helped to get you here. 

I even tried to search to see if there was a specific book or article which might best explain the benefits of helping others, or even to break down how helping others can help your own mental health, but one quick google search turned up too many results to try to list.  Almost every psychology and self help book you would want to read has something in it about the cognitive and emotional benefits of providing help to others.  Even if all you can do is provide a sympathetic ear for someone who needs to vent, I think you will find that lightening their load also helps you to lighten yours.

While most books reference this idea, the book that offered me the most help so far through my journey of breaking my ankle has definitely been “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor Frankl.  I have been meaning to read that book for years, and I am mad I waited this long to finally do so, as I highlighted more passages in that book than I did in my Paramedic textbook.  I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes from that book, as Mr. Frankl describes what I have been trying to say here much more eloquently.

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember 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.”

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