In his classic book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Dr. Victor E. Frankl, a professor of psychiatry, tells about the things he learned in three grim years at the concentration camp in Auschwitz and other Nazi prisons.
As Frankl tried to encourage his fellow prisoners, he saw that those who had the hardest time surviving were those who saw no more sense in life, no aim, no purpose, no reason. They felt they had nothing left to expect from life, so they were in danger of giving up.
Early on in that horrible experience, Frankl had realized that he just had to strike out his former life and turn loose of all those expectations.
Later, he wrote:
“What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly.”
Our situation today is nothing like being in a concentration camp, of course. And yet, don’t Frankl’s words speak to us?
When the things we expect from life have been upended, how freeing it can be to say: “It doesn’t matter so much what I expect from life; rather, what matters most is what life expects from me.”
I like that way of thinking about life—to see life as a daily courageous, exuberant, whole-hearted response to what my life wants from me and only me.
You have to admit, it beats getting depressed over all the things we can’t do.
And maybe it’s more than that. Maybe this is the way we quit waiting for the meaning of our lives to magically appear and, instead, create the meaning of our lives day by day.