The Power of a Positive Attitude

Yael Eckstein  |  November 26, 2021

Three female teens in green uniform smiling at the camera.

The human spirit can endure in sickness,
    but a crushed spirit who can bear?
— Proverbs 18:14

We continue with devotional thoughts from the Book of Proverbs every Friday. One of the 11 books in the Torah known as the Ketuvim, Hebrew for “writings,” Proverbs is part of the “wisdom tradition,” which also includes Job and Ecclesiastes.

Viktor Frankl was an Austrian-Jewish psychotherapist who was imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust. He wrote many books including Man’s Search for Meaning, which has sold millions of copies in dozens of languages. One of the main themes that Frankl wrote and spoke about was the power of a positive attitude and the great impact it has on our ability to survive hardship.

He described how those people who somehow found a way to think positively had a much better chance of surviving the horrors of the Nazi camps, even if they were physically weaker than others who didn’t make it.

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the 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,“ Frankl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning.

The Power of a Positive Attitude

We see this lesson on the power of a positive attitude despite hardship in the wisdom of Proverbs. And as is often the case, the original Hebrew is even deeper than what we read in translation. “The human spirit can endure in sickness,” in Hebrew is Ru’ach ish yechalkel machalehu. The word ish, “man,” in the Bible means more than just “human.” It refers to a strong and independent person, as opposed to the word, adam, “human.” And the word “endure,” yechalkel, would be better translated “sustains.”

What this verse is really saying is what Viktor Frankl taught through his Holocaust experience. The power of a positive attitude, Ru’ach ish, can help sustain life even in the most difficult circumstances.

This is why, at The Fellowship, we make every effort to raise the spirits of the needy that we are helping in addition to providing for their material needs. Bringing hope and a smile to the face of the needy, instilling in them a positive attitude, literally saves lives.

Your Turn:

Is there someone you know who is going through a difficult time? Are you? What can you do to bring the power of a positive attitude to the situation?