Several years ago I found myself totally absorbed by the reading of “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” (Doubleday and Company, 1952). This last week, my son Hansel had to read the book for his English class. We talked about the book together and my afterthoughts gave birth to this article.

Anne Frank was a German-Jewish girl who wrote profusely while hiding during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. The published book was composed of extracts from her diary. Anne Frank began to keep a diary on her thirteenth birthday, June 12, 1942, three weeks before she went into hiding with her mother, father and sister and four other people in the sealed-off upper rooms of the annex of her father’s office building in Amsterdam. With the assistance of a group of Otto Frank’s trusted colleagues they remained hidden for two years and one month, until their betrayal in August 1944, which resulted in their deportation to Nazi concentration camps. Of the group of eight, only Otto Frank survived the war. Anne died in Bergen-Belsen shortly before its liberation in April 1945. This young 15-year-old girl wrote a statement that has remained lodged in my memory since I read it.

“The final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”

Anne knew she faced death at the hands of a horrific evil regime. But she also KNEW that no external power could ever force her to become good or bad. She knew she had choices, including her response to the circumstances beyond her control. She died believing that CHARACTER is what matters in a person’s life. That’s Anne’s legacy to us! What do we make of her statement?

I believe our culture has consistently, encouraged us to shift personal responsibility to entities and people outside of ourselves, which simply leaves us as mere victims of circumstances. It momentarily feels good to believe one is a victim, but the consequences at the end are massively toxic and destructive. We see the results of this tragic trend all over! Kids in our culture learn early on, that depending on how they get treated is how they will respond. Respect for respect’s sake? That’s “old school” in many circles! Man and women give themselves the luxury to break up a marriage and a family just because they don’t get what they want. What’s the role of character in the midst of troubled relationships? “The devil made me do it” or “I didn’t have a choice” symbolize the attitude of many. Even God shrugs his shoulders while listening to religious people saying, “God did it… I had nothing to do with it.” These are deceptive statements that contradict the human reality. The only way God can manifest Himself in any imaginable scenario is through human choice! The same applies to the forces of evil.

Whatever happened to recognizing that we have a free will to choose in spite of the worst circumstances we face in life? Whatever happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Whatever happened to our choice of words, deeds and attitudes? Any room for that? What do we do with the Helen Keller’s of this world? Was she an “anomaly” by displaying such an outstanding attitude as a blind person?

Whatever happened to saying: “I am sorry, I was wrong! I will change because I choose to be a better person!” Whatever happened to our ability to create good habits and good disciplines in all areas of our life? Too much thinking? Too much effort?

Wherever I turn, I seem to find more and more victims, whiners, and wimps; all of them ready to blame someone else for their situation. Someone is responsible for their misery. What do you do with Anne Frank? Do we dismiss her as an accident from the past?

What do we do with people who blame their personal shortcomings and character deficiency on to God, their genes, the economy, bad politicians, bad parenting and all kinds of psychological maneuvers? I heard someone blaming her psychologist for accusing a father of committing incest with his daughter. When I asked her if she had talked to the “victim,” she said, “No.” When I asked her, “What gave you the audacity to accuse him?” her lame answer was, “My psychologist thought he fit the profile.” Wow… Unbelievable! Here was an adult (supposedly) blaming a psychologist for an accusation she irresponsibly made, that could have ruined another person’s reputation, wounded a child’s spirit forever, and broken up a family.

The truth is this: You become whatever you choose to be! You actually choose who to be all the way to your last breath. The temptations you choose to resist or to which you surrender, are your own choice! Call it sex, money, insecurity, greediness, power, position, a competitive spirit, a vindictive or a loving attitude; you become what you choose. You can be as good or as bad as you chose to be. And please, don’t accuse me of moralizing. I have no use for that! But yes, we should all be expected to assume responsibility for our own actions and behavior. We have a choice on attitude; we have a choice on how we respond to a bad person; we have a choice on how we suffer and manage a major life blow; we have a choice on how we respond to financial limitations; we have a choice on how we respond to what we call “the will of God”!

Anne Frank stands as a monumental reminder that we are all the result of our own choices regardless of the circumstances we face. If you chose to do what’s wrong, or assist someone else in doing what’s wrong, all we expect you to do is to accept responsibility. Don’t blame someone else, and don’t expect the world to feel sorry for you! And if you happen to be religious, please, don’t turn to God in a hurry and pretend like nothing ever happened. We still expect you to say, “I was wrong. Would you forgive me?” God won’t say it for you! This is your own life. You have only one life and this is your one chance to make your own choices. No one else can do that for you! You can make an enormous difference in the world by honestly owning your own choices. I have found out that people, who consistently and bravely take responsibility for their own choices, not only free the rest of us from unhealthy guilt but are usually the ones who believe people can change and, they themselves are a living example of that! There is no better medicine for a guilty conscience than honesty, forgiveness and change! In the end, regardless of how you explain your life journey, you are who you are by your own choice and no one else’s!

Author's Bio: 

Harold J. Duarte-Bernhardt is co-founder of the "LIFE ZONE." Harold is a consultant, a seminar speaker and a LIFE Motivational Coach. The "LIFE ZONE" is a resource and a coaching center for personal and spiritual growth committed to providing sound strategies for dynamic living and LIFE FITNESS. Harold believes that PAIN is the greatest window into the best life has to offer! PAIN is never pleasant, it's never fun; but great people have always faced PAIN and difficult times before they found the key to a magnificent life. Harold resides in Southern California and is the father of four wonderful human beings! For more information and coaching visit:
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