When I was blogging about being frustrated with my Facebook friends posting their baby pictures, I mentioned that I had met with my spiritual director. The reason why I met with him is because it had been nearly half a year since I last met with him, and I felt that it was time to meet with him again.
While sipping on coffee and sitting on the patio of a local grocery store, I told him about my current dealings with my frustrations (which wasn’t about baby pictures on Facebook). I won’t go into deeper details for now, because that is not what this blog post is about! To help remind me how to deal with my frustrations, we talked about Fulton Sheen’s understanding of the ego and I, which I first learned about in the book Lift Up Your Heart. This was the first book my spiritual director had me read to begin entering into a deeper Christian spiritual life.
From this last meeting with my spiritual director, I indicated that my frustrations were causing me suffering that I didn’t know how to understand or deal with. He recommended that I read this book, Man’s Search for Meaning by Dr. Viktor Frankl.
I’m nearly done with it, and it’s been a pretty cool read so far.
Dr. Frankl was a Jewish man who survived the concentration camps during World War II. He was a psychologist. Now, I know that a lot of ink has been spilled in order to describe the atrocities that the Nazis committed in their extermination of the Jews and other enemies of their regime. Dr. Frankl himself even asserts this, and while he does recount his own personal experiences in this book, he approaches it from a psychological perspective from his own experiences and observations. In the later half of the book, he talks more about the technical aspects of logotherapy, which is the branch of psychology that he started. Logotherapy helps individuals deal with their neurosis by finding meaning in life.
As I’ve been reading these experiences on sunny days outside during my lunch break, I find it unfathomable to relate to the dire situations that Frankl and friends had to endure while at Auschwitz. They had to do so much work with so little nourishment. If any of them were found to be too weak to work, they would be sent to the gas chambers and crematoriums. If they were sick, they were badly sick. They were treated so poorly. They were lied to. They had to sleep in their own feces and urine. They were beaten. And the list of sufferings go on and on.
Without giving too much of an analytical perspective on the book, I appreciate Frankl pointing out how is it that men could have survived the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual sufferings of being in a Nazi concentration camp. It’s because they attached meaning and purpose to their suffering. Those who could not see a purpose to their suffering lost the will to live or deteriorated more quickly. It was beauty, goodness, and truth that kept these men going whether it was experiencing the beauty of nature or thinking about and desiring to survive because of their beloved wives, which are some examples to name a few from Frankl’s observations.
So, as I’m about to finish this book, it’s helping me to see that my sufferings regarding my current crosses and frustrations have meaning. And because they have meaning, I can endure. While it may totally inhale at times right now, in the end it is worth it.
I cannot let my suffering go to waste.