In the Nazi concentration camps, ordinary citizens were routed from their homes and then interred under the harshest circumstances. In a matter of hours good people learned to act like animals. Victor Frankl, a man who lived through the horrors of the time, found his attention was not drawn to the normal reactions of the normal people. Instead he paid attention to the few exceptions. There was always a small minority, a few people, who walked through the huts seeking to comfort others, even sharing their last piece of bread. From the observation of such people, Frankl concluded that we never lose our capacity to choose. Under the most extreme circumstances we maintain the capacity to live an internally directed life.
People who choose to clarify and live their values end up influencing what happens to other people. There is never a time, even in the sickest organization, even with the most brutal boss, that we lack the freedom to choose to live our values.
When we do so, we become more internally directed. We become more powerful. We transcend the culture. We no longer live by the fears communicated within the culture. We come to recognize that nearly all organizations are unconsciously designed to be systems of fear. Moral power comes from choosing to live our values when we are in a context of fear. When we exercise our freedom to be internally directed, we begin to express the most authentic or true self. We are always free to enact the true self. When we do, we come to more fully know the truth and the truth makes us more fully free.
When are organizations like concentration camps?
When have I chosen to live with courage?
How can we use this passage to create a more positive organization?