I am reading a really good book. It’s called Man’s Search for Meaning, written by holocaust survivor Victor Frankl. Whenever I’ve studied the holocaust or the trans-Atlantic slave trade, I’ve assumed that being freed from such horrific bondage would be the best feeling in the world. And momentarily, it probably is. But as Frankl points out in his book, being freed is actually more of a process than a moment, and there are many challenges along the way:
“Step for step I progressed, until I again became a human being. The way that led from the acute mental tension of the last days in camp (from that war of nerves to mental peace) was certainly not free from obstacles. It would be an error to think that a liberated prisoner was not in need of spiritual care any more.
We have to consider that a man who has been under such enormous mental pressure for such a long time is naturally in some danger after his liberation, especially since the pressure was released quite suddenly. This danger (in the sense of psychological hygiene) is the psychological counterpart of the bends. Just as the physical health of the caisson worker would be endangered if he left his diver’s chamber suddenly (where he is under enormous atmospheric pressure), so the man who has suddenly been liberated from mental pressure can suffer damage to his moral and spiritual health.
During this psychological phase one observed that people with natures of a more primitive kind could not escape the influences of the brutality which had surrounded them in camp life. Now, being free, they thought they could use their freedom licentiously and ruthlessly. The only thing that had changed for them was that they were now the oppressors instead of the oppressed. They became instigators, not objects, of willful force and injustice. They justified their behaviour by their own terrible experiences.
This was often revealed in apparently insignificant events. A friend was walking across a field with me toward the camp when suddenly we came to a field of green crops. Automatically, I avoided it, but he drew his arm through mine and dragged me through it. I stammered something about not treading down the young crops. He became annoyed, gave me an angry look and shouted, ‘You don’t say! And hasn’t enough been taken from us? ‘My wife and child have been gassed – not to mention everything else – and you would forbid me to tread on a few stalks of oats!’
We had to strive to lead them back to this truth, or the consequences would have been much worse than the loss of a few thousand stalks of oats.”
Why is it that so many girls return to their pimps after they’ve been ‘rescued’? Why is it that some people who have experienced child abuse end up abusing their own kids? Why is it that service providers experience violence at the hands of the very people they are trying to help?
Because freedom isn’t a moment, it’s a process. With courage, boldness, and patience, we must strive to walk alongside those who have been hurt, enslaved, and exploited, and foster sustainable, healthy liberty.