Imagine being in a terrible place. The food is beyond bad. The clothing is inadequate. The weather is unbearably hot in the summer and way below what we consider cold in the winter. The work is hard, menial, and endless.
Then imagine that you get to go to a better place. The food is better. You can be warm in the winter. You’re not afraid you’ll die from the bad treatment.
But you find out that, in order to stay there, you have to do things you don’t want to do. You have to help your oppressors spy on your fellow citizens. You have to help them send others to the place that is so bad.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn did not have to imagine this scenario.
After spending years in a Siberian gulag, he was able to go to a place where the Soviet government was doing research. In the 1940s, they wanted Solzhenitsyn to help them develop voice recognition technology. If he didn’t cooperate, they would send him back.
So send me back, he told them.
“Even in the camps, human dignity matters,” says Ignat Solzhenitsyn, Alexander’s son. “We always have choices. Even in the camps. Even where everything is decided for you. What clothes you wear, what food … you’re given, and everything is regimented. There is always the choice to behave with freedom and a sense of dignity.”
Freedom in a gulag? Always. Freedom and dignity everywhere? All the time. Solzhenitsyn is proof that Soviet tyrants overplayed their hand.
“You only have power over people as long as you don’t take everything away from them. But when you’ve robbed a man of everything, he’s no longer in your power—he’s free again.”
In prison, Solzhenitsyn found he could speak freely. He was already in trouble. What else could they do?
Even later in exile, he spoke. His iron will was forged behind the iron curtain. He was a man whose heart was full and whose character was steel.
“You can resolve to live your life with integrity. Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.”
The choice is ours–always.
27 Replies to “Always a Choice”
Thank you for this reminder that we always have a choice.
Thank you, Afi. God bless!
We have a choice in every moment. Follow God or follow self. I choose to follow God. 🙂
The battle is ongoing. Thanks, Melissa! God bless!
This is so good. What a choice Solzhenitsyn made! But truly, we all have a choice. Attitude and joy are everything, and Christ is our ultimate freedom.
How often do we say, “I have/had no choice.” But we always do. Thanks, Jessica. God bless!
You have reminded me of Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
Such a great passage to have in your mind, Beth. He is the empowering power. Thanks and God bless!
Great example of choices made with integrity. Thanks for sharing Nancy!
Thanks, Ava. God bless!
Our choices mark us…and leave a legacy for those to follow.
Yes, Ava. What we decide today marks those who are watching us and learning. Thanks and God bless!
So convicting! And to think of how much we complain about in America in 2019. Thank you for this reminder today.
Yes, Emily, I complain–and worry!– too. Thanks and God bless!
Love this quote, “You can resolve to live your life with integrity. Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.” Yes!
I do too, Lisa. I plan to share that one with students this year. Thanks and God bless!
I know this is not what you meant by your opening description but it sure made me think about some of our mission trips. But, we did have a choice and after a short , we would be home again. I try not to complain on the trips but 7 days of rice for three meals a day, yuck.
I know exactly what you mean, Yvonne. When we went to Asia for a trip, I was impressed by a young man who was struggling not to complain. He was way outside his comfort zone. What impressed me was that I had no problem complaining. I didn’t see the challenge the way he did. He was so mature. And so much younger. Lesson still being absorbed. Thanks and God bless!
Thanks so much, Mitch. God bless!
Deep reflections on power, control and freedom. Interesting to consider. This post made me think about how no person really has power over me, especially my emotions, unless I give that power to them.
It’s a lesson I’m still learning. Thanks, Karen, and God bless!
Such simple, yet profound truth here! Wow. Thank you for sharing this story and reminding us that we always have a choice. May we choose to follow Christ and His ways, come what may.
Yes, Melissa. But it certainly won’t always be easy. We tend to take the easy way. He calls us to the narrow way. Thanks and God bless!
That quote about power is profound, Nancy. I picture the power of sin and our egos that are convinced there’s some good in us, maybe enough to earn our way to Heaven. But when we realized how totally depraved we are – that there’s nothing we can bring to the table – we find the power of sin is truly powerless against the victorious grace of God.
And the worst of our egos happens when we can see the sin in others but not in ourselves. Thanks, Stephen, and God bless!