Hand Sanitizer is not going to save us. How we respond to our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, as well as how we show up towards other people’s thoughts, feelings, and actions will. Likewise, finding meaning can assist us through this experience as well.
Which leads me to think of Victor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist who spent three years of his life in four different concentration camps during World War II. If this was not horrific enough, his pregnant wife, brother, and parents were murdered during this time. After being liberated, he wrote the book, Man’s Search for Meaning. Currently, the people in our country and around the world are facing uncertain times. It is during times like these, I find comfort in his teachings. Frankl teaches us the meaning of life is discovered through the following three things, “by creating a work or doing a deed; by experiencing something or encountering someone; and by the attitude, we take toward unavoidable suffering.”
Although we are experiencing and witnessing much chaos right now, I also see so much good. I see people practicing Frankl’s first point of creating work and doing deeds. Many are setting aside whatever beliefs kept them divided from others and are instead helping those in need. I’ve witnessed random acts of kindness in the community I currently am living, to countries far and wide. Many people are choosing to respect others, including the most vulnerable populations, by putting their desires and needs aside to be considerate of those most at risk. Sure, some have not caught on yet, but out of necessity, they too will. Although I was taught in grad school, opinions do not matter unless backed by research. I am going out on a limb here, and say that regarding the work aspect of Frankl’s first point (warning: opinion ahead), I think we will see a shift in how all organizations operate and possibly great innovation may come from this experience.
According to Frankl’s second point, “by experiencing something or encountering someone,” he discusses the meaning of love and how we can truly grasp another person and understand their full essence by loving them. We may not always understand or agree with another, but in dire times it is essential to love one another. Doing so helps us to rise above the fear, hate, selfishness, and chaos. Fear separates and divides us, but love creates connection and bonds us.
Finally, the third point Frankl brings up is, “by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.” When examining attitudes more in-depth, he discusses the importance of finding meaning in situations that even seem hopeless. It is here we can witness the best of human potential. It is during desperate times that we must challenge our current way of thinking and behaving. Furthermore, with all this said, Frankl says it best when he states, “There are situations in which one is cut off from the opportunity to do one’s work or enjoy one’s life, but what can never be ruled out is the unavoidability of suffering. In accepting this challenge to suffer bravely, life has a meaning up to the last moment, and it retains this meaning literally to the end.”
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