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50 Man’s Search for Meaning Quotes In the Face of Unspeakable Tragedy

These Man’s Search for Meaning quotes will help you better understand suffering, love, and life.

“How was everyday life in a concentration camp reflected in the mind of the average prisoner?” This was the complex and heartbreaking question that Viktor Frankl’s 1946 book Man’s Search for Meaning, set out to answer.

The book depicts his experiences as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps, while utilizing his psychotherapeutic method, to make sense of it all. According to Frankl, the way a prisoner imagined the future affected how long that prisoner would survive.

The second part of the book delved more into his theory of logotherapy, and his thoughts on what ‘meaning’ means. ‘What is the meaning of life?’ is a question nearly every human will wonder at some point.

That point may come when we are facing the most traumatic experiences of our lives, or when we have an abundance of everything, and still cannot find happiness. Understanding the meaning of life helps people to live with purpose and feel a sense of fulfillment.

Don’t forget to also check out these Viktor Frankl quotes on life, suffering and success.

Man’s Search for Meaning quotes about suffering

1. “In some ways, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

2. “If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

3. “Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore, the ‘size’ of human suffering is absolutely relative.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

4. “Everywhere man is confronted with fate, with the chance of achieving something through his own suffering.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

5. “Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

6. “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.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

7. “The crowning experience of all, for the homecoming man, is the wonderful feeling that, after all, he has suffered, there is nothing he need fear any more—except his God.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

8. “To suffer unnecessarily is masochistic rather than heroic.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

9. “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.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

10. “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.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

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Man’s Search for Meaning quotes about freedom and change

11. “Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become the next moment. By the same token, every human being has the freedom to change at any instant.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

12. “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.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

13. “It is not freedom from conditions, but it is freedom to take a stand toward the conditions.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

14. “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.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

15. “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

16. “Man is capable of changing the world for the better if possible, and of changing himself for the better if necessary.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

Man’s Search for Meaning quotes about life

17. “Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life, he can only respond by being responsible.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

18. “What is demanded of man is not, as some existential philosophers teach, to endure the meaninglessness of life, but rather to bear his incapacity to grasp its unconditional meaningfulness in rational terms.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

19. “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.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

20. “A man’s concern, even his despair, over the worthwhileness of life is an existential distress but by no means a mental disease.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

21. “Life is not primarily a quest for pleasure, as Freud believed, or a quest for power, as Alfred Adler taught, but a quest for meaning.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

22. “Woe to him who saw no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on.” ― Victor E. Frankl

23. “A man who could not see the end of his “provisional existence” was not able to aim at an ultimate goal in life.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

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24. “It is we ourselves who must answer the questions that life asks of us, and to those questions, we can respond only by being responsible for our existence.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

25. “It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

26. “Life is like being at the dentist. You always think that the worst is still to come, and yet it is over already.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

27. “So live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!” ― Viktor E. Frankl

28. “The meaning of your life is to help others find the meaning of theirs.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

29. “Life is potentially meaningful under any conditions, even those which are most miserable. And this in turn presupposes the human capacity to creatively turn life’s negative aspects into something positive or constructive. In other words, what matters is to make the best of any given situation.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

30. “Long ago we had passed the stage of asking what was the meaning of life, a naïve query which understands life as the attaining of some aim through the active creation of something of value.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

31. “For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

Man’s Search for Meaning quotes to live by

32. “An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

33. “No man should judge unless he asks himself in absolute honesty whether in a similar situation he might not have done the same.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

34. “Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

35. “I do not forget any good deed done to me & I do not carry a grudge for a bad one.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

36. “Human kindness can be found in all groups, even those which as a whole it would be easy to condemn.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

37. “Fear makes come true that which one is afraid of.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

38. “There are things which must cause you to lose your reason or you have none to lose.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

39. “No one has the right to do wrong, even if wrong has been done to them.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

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40. “The immediate influence of behavior is always more effective than that of words.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

41. “As for the concept of collective guilt, I personally think that it is totally unjustified to hold one person responsible for the behavior of another person or a collective of persons.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

42. “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

43. “For the world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

More quotes from Man’s Search for Meaning about love and humor

44. “The more one forgets himself—by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love—the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

45. “The truth-that love is the highest goal to which man can aspire.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

46. “The salvation of man is through love and in love.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

47. “It is well known that humor, more than anything else in the human make-up, can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

48. “Humor was another of the soul’s weapons in the fight for self-preservation.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

49. “No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

50. “Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

What did you learn from these Man’s Search for Meaning quotes?

Frankl argues that people find the meaning of life in the everyday moments we live. He concludes that life doesn’t stop having meaning because we are going through something unimaginable. He also believed everyone in a dire condition had someone looking down on them. That might be a friend, family member, or spiritual deity, who would not want to be disappointed in our behavior.

Frankl’s experience as a prisoner leads to his conclusion that we do not base psychological reactions on simply the conditions of our lives. The freedom of choice a person feels they have, even in their darkest times, must be factored into the equation.

Hope, optimism, and our spiritual connection all help us persevere and keep going, or searching for meaning. The book is an excellent read and has been called one of the most influential books of all time.

What’s your biggest takeaway from these Man’s Search for Meaning quotes and lines? Share your thoughts on Frankl’s assessment, or your own search for meaning, in the comment section below.

Danielle Dahl, Lead Contributor
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