I just finished reading Laura Hillenbrand’s new book “Unbroken”. It is the amazing, true story of Louis Zamperini, a track Olympian in the 1930’s who became a B-24 bombardier in the Pacific theater of WW II. His plane crashed in the Pacific yet he survived, floating on a raft for many days before being captured by the Japanese. He was then interred in a series of POW camps—almost three years—until the war ended. Every time you thought it could not get worse for Louis as his story unfolded, it did.
It is difficult to put in our modern context what Louis endured and how he managed to come home alive. He suffered through the most harrowing and inhuman treatment a person could ever imagine. He witnessed many of his friends and fellow POW’s die tortuous deaths, sometimes for simply moving in their chair or asking a question. The inhumanity described in the book is just simply hard to believe—what is even harder to believe is that Louis, and many others, did survive and returned home to re-build themselves and their lives.
And yet. This is a story of triumph and redemption as well. For many, the war never ended after they got home. It haunted them until they passed. For others, like Louis, in spite of the challenges of re-entry into post-war America, he eventually flourished. He chose a life of service to underprivileged kids and gave willingly of himself and his resources. He did it via a spiritual awakening and discovering how to forgive even his most brutal captors—it allowed him to move on and make the world a better place.
So, if you’re ever having a bad day or are stuck or think there is no way out of your current situation, think about Louis, what he endured and the mental and physical pain he suffered—both from others and self-inflicted. How did he eventually learn to deal with it? He chose forgiveness and the first person he forgave was himself.