Unbroken is a best selling biography and movie depicting the life of Louis Zamperini. His story is one of great trials and tribulations, yet, of incredible resilience and determination. It is also a modern day example of God’s wonder-working power to change a person’s life when they are willing.
Louis Zamperini was a troubled teen whose rebellious nature caused him to encounter law enforcement on several occasions. He was an athlete and continued to pursue his sport interests despite his troubles. He later became a standout at the 1963 Olympics in Germany. His athletic prowess allegedly caught the eye of Aldolf Hitler, who wanted to meet Zamperini. Zamperini later enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces.
While in the military, Zamperini and a crew of ten other soldiers were sent on a rescue mission for other soldiers whose aircraft went down. The B-24 aircraft he was in experienced its own mechanical problems as well and went down in the Pacific Ocean. Eight of the eleven soldiers were killed, leaving Zamperini and two other soldiers behind. Unfortunately, one of the three men later died before they were found. Zamperini and his remaining battle buddy survived for more than 40 days in the shark-infested water on chocolate, rainwater, and fish. Japanese soldiers later captured the two men. Initially, the men were well kept and fed until they were transferred to a camp run by an eager soldier named “the Bird”.
For the next two years, the men were beaten, tortured, and starved. Zamperini often endured longer periods of torture because of his rank as an Officer and his public figure status during his Olympic tenure. The men were eventually released from Japanese custody when WWII ended.
Zamperini suffered from PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as a result of his experience. His life began to spiral out of control. Just like many people who experience trauma of any kind, he self-medicated with alcohol in order to cope. However, let’s back up for just a moment – while stranded at sea, Zamperini prayed using bits and pieces of prayers he’d heard in movies. He told God that if “He (God) would save them, he would serve Him for the rest of his life”.
Zamperini went on to experience torture while being a POW after praying the prayer that would one day change his life. Again, he became an alcoholic and began down a path that many find difficult to escape. Eventually, he attended a crusade led by a young Billy Graham. This day would be the first day of the best days of his life. Zamperini opened himself to God’s agape love and was forever changed for the better. He was delivered from PTSD and gave up his self-medicating habit of alcoholism immediately. He became a man of such faith and love than he later returned to Japan to show his forgiveness for the Japanese soldiers who tortured him and to share the gospel with them.
Wow! What an amazing story of victory? I have not watched the movie but I have read a number of stories about Zamperini since the trailer for the movie was released. Honestly, most people will never experience the type and degree of trauma Zamperini experienced, but trauma is trauma. A very small percentage of the human population will become Olympic athletes. An even smaller percentage will be a POW. However, most people will or have experienced some type of emotional or mental trauma that has affected their life in some tremendous way. Just because one’s trauma is not directly reflective of that of Zamperini and his battle buddies does not lessen the impact of the trauma.
A traumatic event threatens a person’s safety or makes one feel helpless. Any overwhelming life experience can cause a person to experience symptoms of PTSD for brief or extended periods of time. One can feel “crazy”, disconnected, and emotionally numb after experiencing a situation that shatters their trust and safety. Many of us have experienced situations in our childhood and adult relationships that cause us to build emotional and mental walls in order to keep from being hurt again. The problem is, however, we often have these experiences very often and by a number of different people. Which can cause a great deal of emotional trauma. People become angry, irritable, and often have feelings of depression, hopelessness, and mistrust. Many walk away being so much of a victim, that they never truly seek change for themselves.
The facts are in: according to www.ptsdunited.org,
· 70% of adults in the U.S. have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives – about 223.4 million people.
· Up to 20% of these people go on to develop PTSD – about 44.7 million people with PTSD.
· An estimated 8% of Americans have PTSD at any given time – approximately 24.4 million people.
· An estimated 1:9 women develops PTSD, making them about twice as likely as men
I think it is safe to assume that most of us have experienced some type of trauma or bad situation that has affected us in one way or another. Some situations are much more traumatic than others but the results are often very similar. So, what makes a person UnBroken? What is it that causes some to overcome while others succumb?
First, I think a person must be able to recognize the internal and external battle raging on in and around them. It was obvious for Zamperini to see that he was in the mist of one of the most significant battles in American history. However, he also needed to acknowledge that he had a personal battle within. He could have easily blamed his condition (alcoholism) on being a POW and I am sure that most people would have understood that. He could have easily slipped into the abyss of never-ending hurt and blame with very good reason, but he did not. He had to take ownership of the person he had become more so than the reason why he became that person.
It is so important to view your in a very real and unfiltered way. If the person you have become is not the person you know you really are, you have some changes to make. If you have become an alcoholic, if you are miserable, if you are mean, if you are anything you despise – you must accept it at face value. No excuses. Let it be exactly what it is. Once you see who you are and you know changes must be made, make the necessary decisions. Some decisions are more difficult to make than others but, when you have a true desire to change, the decisions will be made. I know how difficult it is to make tough decisions because I’ve had to make a series of them myself but I do not regret making any of them. The fear of the unknown paralyzed me a lot longer than I should have allowed, but I eventually overcame my fears and began moving forward with my decisions. You must stand on faith and believe that you can and will make it through whatever decisions and choices you have to make.
Life requires us to make decisions very often. However, once you have made a life-changing decision, stick with it. Hold on to it and pursue it in spite of how you feel. As I experienced my personal issues a few years ago, I quickly learned that my feelings could not dictate my life if I was going to make a great change. Again, Zamperini had so many valid reasons to remain a victim but he chose different; he resolved within himself that he’d press on anyway. You must do the same. Allow God to mend your brokenness in spite of your current condition. Zamperini pursued change, even in spite of himself and his life circumstances. Don’t forget, he became an alcoholic after God answered his prayer. When he decided that enough was enough, he opened himself to God’s healing hands and was never the same. We now know him as Mr. UnBroken.
Like Louis Zamperini and millions of others, you too can be an example of strength, courage, and resilience to those around you. A great story is one of survival, redemption, victory, and faith. If you faint not, you too can do the seemingly impossible. If you put in the work, you too will be Mr. or Ms. UnBroken.
Be UnBroken! Be Better! Make Your Life Spectacular!
You can read more about my story and my book at www.bettersense.org. My book “Thank You Hurt…I’m Better Sense I Faced You!” is available online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Ingram, and over 35,000 other online book retailers. It is available in paperback and ebook format.