This gem of a book is definitely worth the read. My favourite authors kept mentioning it. They said it was a must-read.
So I read it and it really spoke to me. Maybe because meaning is the number one thing I search for in life. And maybe because I struggle with finding meaning every now and then. And maybe because I struggle with the suffering in life and wonder what the point of it all is. And maybe because I struggle with depression at times because of the struggle to find meaning and the struggle with suffering.
This book spoke right into all of this and helped give me perspective and hope that I can apply to life straight away. It helps me deal with suffering, to find meaning, and keep on going.
It’s about a man who found meaning in the midst of suffering in concentration camps.
Here are the insights that spoke to me most:
Don’t ask what you can expect from life; ask what life expects from you.
If I expect life to be free of suffering and struggles then I’ll always be disappointed and wondering what’s the point. But if I remember that moment by moment I have a choice in what I do and how I see things, then I need to take responsibility for my life. Moment by moment, life asks me what am I going to do. Will I roll over or will I get up and keep going? Will I wallow in self-pity or will I create something useful? Will I think everyone is horrible or will I uphold the worth of all people and treat them well no matter how they treat me?
Realise that you are irreplaceable.
What distinguishes you as an individual? You are important to the people in your life. You matter to them. There is work you do that needs to be done. There is knowledge you have that no-one else has that needs to be shared. You are impossible to replace. Therefore, your existence matters as well as your continuance. There are things you need to finish. So don’t roll over. Don’t give up when it’s hard. You can bear anything if you know what you’re here for and what you have to do.
With this new perspective that life asks something of me every moment and I’m irreplaceable, it makes me think:
Stop worrying about your deficiencies and fears and insecurities. Get over yourself and focus on what you have to do. Focus on the ones you love and the ones who love you. Focus on the work you need to finish. Those deficiencies, fears and insecurities don’t have to stop you from loving, being loved, and doing your work. They don’t have to overwhelm you. They are insignificant. They are okay because you still have meaning, and meaning to fulfil. Resolve to focus on that meaning, not the deficiencies, fears and insecurities.
We always have freedom.
We are affected by biology and circumstances so we don’t control everything. But our freedom to control what we do in any given moment can never be taken away. We can choose not to let circumstances break us. No-one can take away our dignity, but we can give it up. We can choose to act less than human or we can choose to maintain our dignity.
Freedom isn’t enough.
We can be free and be idle. We can be free and do evil. We all have to answer for our own lives. To not ask the meaning of life but to recognise life is asking us what the meaning of our life is. Moment by moment we choose. Will we choose a life of dignity or a life of cruelty? Will we choose a meaningless life or a life with meaning?
We all choose how we live. It is a responsibility. We choose if we live with meaning or without it.
There is meaning in suffering.
In the midst of suffering, we can choose to either give up on life or rise above the suffering. Suffering doesn’t take away our freedom. We still have choices. We can still be active in our suffering. We can resolve to keep our dignity. We can resolve to treat people well even when people cause us to suffer. We can resolve to live meaningfully in the midst of suffering.