30 Minute Meditations on Being Human from the Life and Writings of Viktor Frankl, Day 28: Suffering Has Meaning

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Suffering without Meaning

Lesson for the Day: If you choose to find a meaning to suffering, whatever kind of suffering it may be, you ease it, making it more bearable.

According to Dr. Frankl, the difference between despair and meaning is in the attitude a person has toward suffering, for “despair is suffering without meaning.”1 When a person despairs of his or her suffering, it becomes unbearable. He or she may even, depending on the severity of the suffering, be inclined to commit suicide. As a medical doctor, Frankl observes,

“Sometimes the patient … finds additional meaning in suffering. He may even succeed in making suffering into a triumph. … [H]owever, meaning rests on the attitude the patient chooses toward suffering.”2

It is somewhat cliche to say, “Attitude is everything.” It may not be “everything,” but it certainly has a lot to do with making sense of defeat, suffering, failure and other kinds of hardships. That is why Frankl says,

“Life can be made meaningful … through the stand we take toward a fate we no longer can change (an incurable disease, an inoperable cancer, or the like).”3

Therefore, rather than viewing suffering as senseless, choose to make some sense of suffering.

Footnotes

  1. Viktor E. Frankl, Psychotherapy and Existentialism: Selected Papers on Logotherapy (New York, N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1967), p. 15. Italics are the publisher’s.
  2. ———-, The Unconscious God (New York, N.Y.: Washington Square Press, 1975, 1985), p. 137. Italics are the publisher’s.
  3. ———-, The Will of Meaning: Foundations and Applications of Logotherapy (New York, N.Y.: New American Library, 1969, 1st printing 1970), p. 131.

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