Bobby Hill Meets Viktor Frankl

I love watching the now-canceled show, King of the Hill. The lines spoken by each character share an inner truth about our human condition, and each episode demonstrates that most people stumble through life holding on to a tragically flawed, self-centered set of values. With the exception of conspiracy theorist and resident philosopher, Dale Gribble, who utters classics like “If all you’re goin’ on is my confession, forget it, I’m simply not credible”, no character on the show is more in touch with his inner child than Bobby, the twelve year old son of Hank and Peggy Hill.

In truth, I make my children watch the show with me so I can give a rebuttal to nearly everything that comes out of his cartoon-drawn mouth. I’ve refuted so many things Bobby says that we practice a little catechism after each episode:

Me: What is the greatest fear a father has for his children?

Children (in unison): That they will turn out like Bobby Hill.

Me: And what is Bobby Hill?

Children: Self-absorbed.

Me: And?

Children: Annoying.

Me: What has his own father said about Bobby Hill?

Children: “That boy ain’t right.”

Me: And?

Children: “If Bobby doesn’t love football, he won’t lead a fulfilling life, and then he’ll die.”

Me: And what has his father said to Bobby Hill?

Children: “D-minus! Dangit, Bobby, I expected better from someone who doesn’t have any extracurricular activities.”

Me: What else?

Children: “The only reason why your nails should be black is because you hit them with a hammer.”

Me: What would help Bobby Hill the most?

Children: A spanking.

Sometimes, though, Bobby does or says things that touch upon a universal summation of our own deeply held fears or beliefs. For example, one time he said, “I’m going to grow up without anyone to love, and die friendless and alone like Weird Al Yankovic.” Who hasn’t said that while looking in the mirror? And then there is this one, the point of this blog: “It’s not a crutch dad, it’s just something I’m relying on to get me through life.”

Bobby Hill is not alone in using a crutch. What’s your crutch? Do you lean on so-called comfort food when you’re stressed, or a drink to help you relax? Those crutches are pretty common. But even more common is this: the belief that we are somehow a VICTIM when things don’t go our way. If you ever blame someone else or make an excuse, you are pulling out the VICTIM crutch.

An Austrian-born Jew, Viktor Frankl was an amazing man. He practiced medicine as a neurologist and a psychiatrist before the break out of World War II. In 1942, Frankl was arrested by the Nazis along with his wife and his parents. He was imprisoned and spent nearly 3 years in slave-labor in various Nazi concentration camps. By the time his camp near Dachau was liberated by the Americans in 1945, Frankl’s wife and parents had been murdered by the Nazis.

Unlike the vast majority of people who play the victim, Frankl was an actual victim, a victim of hatred and bigotry, a survivor of genocide that took the lives of 6 out of the 9 million Jews living in Europe at the time. If anyone had the right to use a crutch, to cry “FOUL!”, it was Viktor Frankl.

Instead, Frankl took his experiences in the death camps and wrote Man’s Search for Meaning, a book the Library of Congress called “one of the top ten most influential books in the United States.” Here’s an example of the mind and heart of Frankl:

“We can discover…meaning in life in three different ways: (1) by creating a work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.”

It’s astonishing that he could hold these beliefs and attitudes while experiencing unspeakable suffering.

The next time life circumstances don’t go your way, hold off on playing the victim card. Very few people who have the label victim attached to them are actual victims. And one can only pray that if we were to become true victims of some terrible event that we would have the ability to embrace a morsel of the indelible strength that led Frankl to say this:

“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.”

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