What did Alexander the Great, George Washington, Napoleon, Queen Victoria, Golda Meir, Hitler, Stalin, and Fidel Castro all have in common? They were all orphans, an interesting list of both good and evil leaders.
Pierre Rentchnick did a study of 300 leaders who had been orphaned through the death of the parents or by severe emotional separation from the parents. He concluded that the deprivation of parents gave these leaders tremendous willpower to lead in either a good or evil way.
Dr. Paul Tournier, a Swiss physician, counselor, and author, was intrigued by Rentchnick’s study. Tournier, an orphan himself, asserted that circumstances are morally neutral, that what matters is how we respond to them.
All of us have to deal with less than ideal circumstances and even bad circumstances. We may not have a choice as to what happens to us, but we have a choice as to how we respond to what happens to us. Rentchnick’s observations concerning the contrast of good and bad orphaned famous leaders shows how bad circumstances can be responded to in very different ways.
I have known people (and I suspect you have too) who have allowed bad circumstances to turn them into negative, bitter, angry, and self-centered people. I have also known people (and I suspect you have too) who have responded to bad circumstances by choosing to be positive, joyful, caring people. What’s the difference? The difference is the choice they made, the choice of how to respond to the negative circumstances in their lives.
When going through bad circumstances there’s the easy choice of taking the path of least resistance, the low road, the giving in to the emotions and attitudes that easily come to us, which are often negative, angry, hopeless, vindictive and lead us to feel victimized.
There’s another path to take when we go through bad circumstances. It’s the high road. It means we resist reacting and are intentional about responding. This chosen path can lead us to grow, persevere, develop a deepening faith in God, a heightened desire to help others, and to feel victorious.
We have the God-given power to respond instead of reacting to bad circumstances. We just have to accept that gift of choice, unwrap it, and use it!
“This is what the Lord says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.'” Jeremiah 6:16