How Can You Stand Your Ground?

How can you stand your ground when you are weak and sensitive to pain, when people you love are still alive, when you are unprepared?

What do you need to make you stronger than the situation?

Consider the story of Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, Nobel laureate and Orthodox Christian author:

A high school teacher in his hovel far from home spends every spare minute writing—and then burying the manuscripts in jars. Who could have guessed that he was changing history? A Soviet-era joke set in the future has a teacher asking who Soviet president Leonid Brezhnev was and a schoolgirl replying, “Wasn’t he some insignificant politician in the age of Solzhenitsyn?”

As a boy, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn planned to find fame through commemorating the glories of the Bolshevik Revolution. But as an artillery captain, he privately criticized Stalin and got packed off to eight years in the prison camps. There, the loyal Leninist encountered luminous religious believers and moved from the Marx of his schoolteachers to the Jesus of his Russian Orthodox forefathers: “God of the Universe!” he wrote, “I believe again! Though I renounced You, You were with me!”

After prison, Solzhenitsyn poured out once-unimaginable tales of the brutality of Soviet prison life. With One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, the unknown author became lionized worldwide as a truth-telling freedom-fighter. A publishing event that Premier Nikita Khrushchev authorized as part of his de-Stalinization campaign looks, in retrospect, like the first crack in the Berlin Wall.

The Gulag Archipelago, a history of the Soviet concentration camps, prompted the Kremlin to ship the author westward in 1974.

At home, Solzhenitsyn had scolded the Soviet leaders for their attempted “eradication of Christian religion and morality” and for substituting an ideology with atheism as its “chief inspirational and emotional hub.” But once in the West, he scolded Western elites for discarding “the moral heritage of Christian centuries with their great reserves of mercy and sacrifice” and for substituting “the proclaimed and practiced autonomy of man from any higher force above him.”

Thus many Western intellectuals also turned against him (one headline bellowed, “Shut Up, Solzhenitsyn”). Despite his moderate political inclinations, critics pinned false labels on him: reactionary, chauvinist, monarchist, theocrat, even anti-Semite.

“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line dividing good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either— but right through every human heart.”
—Alexandr Solzhenitsyn

So how can you stand your ground when you are weak and sensitive to pain, when people you love are still alive, when you are unprepared? What do you need to make you stronger than the interrogator and the whole trap?

Solzhenitsyn writes: From the moment you go to prison, you must put your cozy past firmly behind you. At the very threshold, you must say to yourself: “My life is over, a little early to be sure, but there’s nothing to be done about it. I shall never return to freedom. I am condemned to die — now or a little later. But later on, in truth, it will be even harder, and so the sooner the better. I no longer have any property whatsoever. For me, those I love have died, and for them I have died. From today on, my body is useless and alien to me. Only my spirit and my conscience remain precious and important to me.”

Confronted by such a prisoner, the interrogation will tremble.

Only the man who has renounced everything can win that victory.

–Alexandr Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago

You might want to Google him. I think I going to start rereading his stuff.

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