Pondering Frankl: Man’s Search for Meaning

61633lfpdxlI recently read a book that has been on my radar for some time now. It is a book entitled Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.

In the book, Frankl, a concentration camp survivor from the the holocaust, takes the reader into life in the camps.

Not since I had read a book called Left to Tell about the Rwandan genocide of 1994 have I been so riveted by what I read in such a way that I felt every emotion. Reading this book, much like Left to Tell, one cannot simply finish reading it without having a deeper appreciation for life. Quite frankly, a deeper appreciation towards every breath we are gifted with in life.

With this, and much like I have in previous posts regarding books that I have read, I will list 25 quotes from the book that stopped me in my tracks, caused me to reflect, and then pursue.

Which one stands out to you?

25 Quotes from Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning

  1. “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
  1. “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
  1. “There is much wisdom in the words of Nietzsche: “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” I can see in these words a motto which holds true for any psychotherapy. In the Nazi concentration camps, one could have witnessed that those who knew that there was a task waiting for them to fulfill were most apt to survive.”
  1. “But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.”
  1. “An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.”
  1. “No man should judge unless he asks himself in absolute honesty whether in a similar situation he might not have done the same.”
  1. “Even though conditions such as lack of sleep, insufficient food and various mental stresses may suggest that the inmates were bound to react in certain ways, in the final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone.”
  1. “Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of or to forgo the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation may afford him. And this decides whether he is worthy of his sufferings or not.”
  1. “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.”
  1. “Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him—mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp.”
  1. “I think it was Lessing who once said, ‘There are things which must cause you to lose your reason or you have none to lose’. An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behaviour”.”
  1. “It is not for me to pass judgement on those prisoners who put their own people above everyone else. Who can throw a stone at a man who favors his friends under circumstances when, sooner or later, it is a question of life or death? No man should judge unless he asks himself in absolute honesty whether in a similar situation he might not have done the same”.”
  1. “Humor was another of the soul’s weapons in the fight for self-preservation.”
  1. “I believe that my handicap will only enhance my ability to help others. I know that without the suffering, the growth that I have achieved would have been impossible.”
  1. “At such a moment, it is not the physical pain which hurts the most (and this applies to adults as much as to punished children); it is the mental agony caused by the injustice, the unreasonableness of it all.”
  1. “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
  1. “Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.”
  1. “No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him.”
  1. “We have come to know Man as he really is. After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips.”
  1. “The consciousness of one’s inner value is anchored in higher, more spiritual things, and cannot be shaken by camp life. But how many free men, let alone prisoners, possess it?”
  1. “Once an individual’s search for a meaning is successful, it not only renders him happy but also gives him the capability to cope with suffering.”
  1. “The story of the young woman whose death I witnessed in a concentration camp. It is a simple story. There is little to tell and it may sound as if I had invented it; but to me it seems like a poem. This young woman knew that she would die in the next few days. But when I talked to her she was cheerful in spite of this knowledge. “I am grateful that fate has hit me so hard,” she told me. “In my former life I was spoiled and did not take spiritual accomplishments seriously.” Pointing through the window of the hut, she said, “This tree here is the only friend I have in my loneliness.” Through that window she could see just one branch of a chestnut tree, and on the branch were two blossoms. “I often talk to this tree,” she said to me. I was startled and didn’t quite know how to take her words. Was she delirious? Did she have occasional hallucinations? Anxiously I asked her if the tree replied. “Yes.” What did it say to her? She answered, “It said to me, ‘I am here-I am here-I am life, eternal life.”
  1. “Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.”
  1. “Even though conditions such as lack of sleep, insufficient food and various mental stresses may suggest that the inmates were bound to react in certain ways, in the final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone.”
  1. “One evening, when we were already resting on the floor of our hut, dead tired, soup bowls in hand, a fellow prisoner rushed in and asked us to run out to the assembly grounds and see the wonderful sunset. Standing outside we saw sinister clouds glowing in the west and the whole sky alive with clouds of ever-changing shapes and colors, from steel blue to blood red. The desolate grey mud huts provided a sharp contrast, while the puddles on the muddy ground reflected the glowing sky. Then, after minutes of moving silence, one prisoner said to another, “How beautiful the world could be…”

 

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One thought on “Pondering Frankl: Man’s Search for Meaning

  1. Pingback: Pondering Rohr: Everything Belongs | Thoughts from the Horizon

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