The Search for Meaning

Blog_TheSearchforMeaningViktor E. Frankl was a psychiatrist, who founded a school of psychotherapy based on humanity’s search for meaning. This search for meaning, he claims, “is the primary motivation in his life and not a ‘secondary rationalization’ of instinctual drives” (Frankl 2006, 99).

The problem is that few of us know what motivates us, and even fewer know how to find meaning in life. This requires wisdom, a wisdom that is no longer taught or passed down from parent to child. The fact is, most of us were raised by parents that had no more a clue of life’s meaning than we did.

But without this meaning, life becomes almost unbearable. We need to have a meaning for our existence, especially if we are to endure the eventual hardships life brings. As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how” (Frankl 2006, 104).

So where do we turn to discover this meaning in life? Many turn to religion for answers. And just about every religion will have a ready made answer. Christianity’s answer is best given by the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Question, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

The problem with these pat answers is that they satisfy someone only if they don’t question things too much. If the meaning of my life is to glorify God, then, which God. There are thousands of religions, how am I supposed to know which one is correct. And further, how do I know that there is even a God? What if there is no God? What then? Does my life then have no meaning?

Wisdom will help us realize that religious cliches are shallow, and ultimately, distracting. We have to do the hard task of discovering our own meaning to our own life. No one can tell you the meaning of your life. The best they can do is help you develop the skills to help you on your spiritual journey. In fact, I would argue, that finding the meaning of your life is one of the main aspects of spirituality.

There is a world of difference between an aimless life and one that has purpose. A purpose driven life is one that is filled with direction, energy, and positive influence for the betterment of people and society. Whether or not you believe in some kind of God or not, you still need to find purpose in this world and in this life. You need to find a mission that is uniquely yours, matched to your strengths and values.

• Frankl, Victor E. 2006. Man’s Search for Meaning. Boston: Beacon Press.
• Westminster Shorter Catechism. 1647. The Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics. Accessed January 28, 2016.


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