Saturday June 9

The God, the Flag, the Family and the Meaning

There’s an old saying in the military, “There are no atheists in fox holes.” It means that

people who are in great stress or danger will always turn to God, even if they aren’t normally true believers. When problems are too big to handle, only God can help.

I’ve developed a slightly different view. I think that when human beings find themselves in difficult situations, the support they really need comes from a sense of purpose. For some people this is God. For others, it’s a national flag, a family to protect, a major goal, something that matters personally.

All of these things – God, flag, family, goal – come down to meaning. That’s what purpose is – a sense of meaning.

Viktor Frankl, the Austrian psychiatrist, determined that a sense of meaning or purpose can help a human being survive the most horrible experiences. As a Jew during World War II, Frankl was forced into a Nazi ghetto where he worked as a physician because of his training as a psychiatrist. Later, he was given the task of monitoring the mental health of inmates and helping new people overcome their shock and grief. Then, he and his wife were transferred to Auschwitz where Frankl worked as a slave laborer. In those horrifying, dehumanizing and brutal conditions, Frankl observed that many people simply gave up and died. The ones who had a sense of higher purpose seemed better equipped to survive. As Frankl put it,

[Tweet ““Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how.’””]

Photo credit Torbakhopper