Free What Can We Do To Find Meaningful Lives In Oppressive Circumstances? Argumentative Essay Example

Type of paper: Argumentative Essay

Topic: Life, Love, Actions, God, Belief, Oppression, Time, Suffering

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/12/28

Finding meaning in life is one of the few tools available to help humans survive countless forms of tragedy and suffering. Whether it is the oppression of concentration camps or the pain of being a teen whose differences make him or her a target, life presents a myriad of situations that cause psychological and physical pain. Without a sense of meaning it is easier for us to lose hope and begin to believe that living life is no longer worth the effort. This nihilistic view can be combatted by finding meaning in life, one option being to embrace the philosophy of existentialism: “The heritage of existentialism pushed to the fore questions of death, isolation, uselessness, experiential relativism, the pointlessness of violence and suffering, and the impossibility to ever really know what was true in life or death.” ( Steger, p 383) Regardless of what philosophy we choose to embrace, finding meaning in life can be the foundation that get us through the most difficult of times. For example, a study on bullying and suicidal ideation clearly show that meaning in life can provide solace for teens who are bullied: “The significant moderation effect of meaning in life for males is particularly exciting. Here, meaning appears to actually protect victimized males from suicidal ideation.” (Henry, Kimberly et al. p. 230) Once the importance of finding meaning in life is understood, the next step is to identify what must be done to find meaning that will provide us peace during even the most oppressive of circumstances. We can find meaning in life in oppressive circumstances by understanding love, finding ways to love everything we do and developing a belief in a loving God.
Viktor Frankl discusses his experiences as a prisoner in a concentration camp in the book “Man’s Search for Meaning”. Frankl experienced tremendous suffering during his time in the concentration camp, he endured atrocities that would break the spirit of many people including the death of his wife, parents and brother. Frankl refused to let the oppressive circumstances he faced destroy him and he discovered what he believed to be the most important truth we can learn:
For the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth - that Love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. (Frankl, p 56-57)
In a search for the type of meaning we can subscribe to when enduring our most trying of times the best place to start is with love. But what does love mean? Is it the feelings of lust and attraction we can feel for others? Is it the joy we experience when we do pleasurable activities? Those forms of love would be a weak foundation to help us through oppressive circumstances. The love Frankl refers to is an action. It is the actions people take to support one another and themselves when things get hard. It is the choice to treat ourselves and others in a constructive rather than destructive manner. Understanding that we can love ourselves and others no matter what circumstances we are in gives us an unshakable meaning in life. One of the most effective ways to love ourselves is to find ways to love everything we do.
In the essay “On the Meaning of Life” Moritz Schlick expresses the need for us to understand that life is not just about leisure time, we must also fill our time doing what needs to be done to maintain life: “But what actually fills up our days almost entirely is activities serving to maintain life. In other words, the content of existence consists in the work that is needed in order to exist.” (p. 3) For some of us, doing what needs to be done can be a form of oppression. Whether it is making a living working in a cubicle, waiting tables or doing sales the actions we need to do to earn money can feel oppressive. At the other end of the spectrum, living under a tyrannical government or being forced into a concentration camp are examples of true oppression. In either condition, we can find meaning in life by choosing to love whatever it is we are doing. This version of love is the ability to find worth in whatever it is we do, regardless as to whether or not the action brings us pleasure. One way to find this type of meaning is to approach all things with a level of compassionate curiosity, good will and commitment to doing whatever the action is to the best of our ability. By doing these things we can grow to love everything we do, which Schlick believes is the ultimate goal of finding meaning in life: “The last liberation of man would be reached if in all his doings he could give himself entirely to the act itself, inspired to his activity always by love.” (p 7) Whether the actions we partake in are data entry or washing dishes or following directions from an authority figure who could kill us at any instant we can find meaning in our actions by approaching everything we do with love. We can let go of worrying about the result of the action and focusing on the rewards we will receive once the action is completed and simply embrace the action itself. The deep meaning that arises from giving ourselves over to each action we take can help us manage through the direst of circumstances. In addition to finding meaning through loving ourselves, loving others and loving what we do we can also find meaning in embracing a belief in a loving God.
Oppressive circumstances of any kind result in a loss of control for those who are oppressed. Though finding meaning in love for earthly things can alleviate the suffering of oppression, only a restoration of some sort of feeling of control can result in internal peace. When control is not an option in our everyday reality we can find it in our relationship with God. By establishing a relationship with God we can believe that while we are not in control, He is and we can have faith that His plans for us are in our best interest. This belief is reliant on a faith in a loving God which evidence has shown can provide deep meaning to life: “Based on prior research, there are at least three mechanisms that help explain why images of a loving God might positively influence subjective meaning and purposethe individual draws on a secure attachment style, religious coping strategies, and positive self-image.” (Stroope, Samuel, Scott Draper, and Andrew Whitehead p. 27-28) The solace that comes from believing in a loving God can provide us the final ingredient for the meaning we need to survive oppressive circumstances, when life hurts too much for us to bare we can remind ourselves that this suffering has a purpose even if we don’t understand what that purpose is yet.
Oppression comes in many forms. None of us make it through life without having to endure oppression of some kind. This fact of life is the reason it is so important for us to do whatever we can to find meaning in every circumstance. We can find meaning in doing things we enjoy or scheduling as much leisure time as possible but those things will leave us hurting when life gets rough, they don’t provide us a level of meaning that can support us through the worst of times. We must dig deeper than the surface level meaning that comes from creating a life based on doing things we find to be pleasurable. To find the type of meaning that will sustain us through times of oppression we must understand what love really is, commit to loving everything we do and develop a belief in a loving God. By doing these things we strengthen our foundation of self and ascertain the ability to survive any difficulty that comes our way throughout life. Not only will this benefit us when we find ourselves in oppressive circumstances, it also allows us a freedom from the fear that comes from a lack of confidence in our ability to deal with the hard stuff in life.

Works Cited

Frankl, Victor. Man’s Search for Meaning. New York. Washington Square Press. 1984. Print.
Henry, Kimberly, et al. "The Potential Role Of Meaning In Life In The Relationship Between Bullying Victimization And Suicidal Ideation." Journal Of Youth & Adolescence 43.2 (2014): 221-232. SocINDEX with Full Text. Web. 23 Mar. 2015.
Schlick, Moritz “On the Meaning of Life.” Philosophical Papers, Vol. 2, D. Reidel (1979). Translated by Peter Heath. Web. 23 Mar. 2015.
Steger, Michael F. "Making Meaning In Life." Psychological Inquiry 23.4 (2012): 381-385. Business Source Complete. Web. 23 Mar. 2015.
Stroope, Samuel, Scott Draper, and Andrew Whitehead. "Images Of A Loving God And Sense Of Meaning In Life." Social Indicators Research 111.1 (2013): 25-44. Health Business Elite. Web. 23 Mar. 2015.

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