- meaning = a life’s purpose; significance of one’s life
- will = a person’s ability to make decisions and act on them; the individual ability to pursue goals1
- greater will = a group’s ability to make decisions and act on them; the collective ability to pursue goals
1) Meaning & Belonging
You have meaning if your life is significant. Your life can only be significant if it is important to something greater than you. Therefore, you can have meaning insofar as you are part of a whole, part of, for example, a planet or a society. Let us focus on the latter here.
Meaning comes from social belonging—belonging to a family, tribe, team, country, company, community. Belonging creates meaning because it binds you to a greater will. It incorporates your individual will into a larger, collective will. As you enter the realm of meaning, what you want merges into what an entity larger than you wants.
This is the essence of love, of tribalism, of patriotism, of humanism. It is also the essence of leadership, because a true leader is defined by his willingness to sacrifice everything for
his team and his mission the team’s mission.
Meaning is thus a transformation of will: the transformation of ‘I want’ into ‘we want’.
- Your goal no longer exists; it has become the goal of something greater than you.
- Your mission no longer exists; it has become the mission of something greater than you.
- Your purpose no longer exists; it has become the purpose of something greater than you.
In sum, you create meaning by letting your will merge into a greater will. When a greater will absorbs a personal will, meaning is created.
2) Meaning & Pride
Pride is trapped by your ego. Belonging pries open your ego so that your pride can burst out shining… and then dissolve into yet greater glory. The ego-surpassing will does not spoil or abandon pride; it absorbs and transforms it.
Without pride, it would be disastrous for your will to be bound by a greater will. Too many people, out of an aching desire for meaning and belonging, let themselves be used by a greater will. Not grounded in pride, their wills become tools for political movements, religious cults, corrupt corporations, and joyless marriages.
This is why pride is important. Pride prevents your will from being poached and disfigured so that your transformation of will, rather than a premature surrender, can be a transcendence into something higher.
You must first develop your personal will as a center of pride. Unless your will is firmly grounded in your self, letting it be absorbed by a greater will leads to thralldom, obedience, and herd mentality. Hence, before you create meaning, you must strengthen your willpower, practice self-control, and embrace self-discipline. If you transform your will too soon, you develop a sheep’s will.
In sum, your will’s merging into a greater will must be an ennobling exaltation. When a greater will absorbs a prideful will, meaning is created.
Some evidence to support my point
- Grouden, ME & Jose, PE (2014, p. 35): “Previous research has ascertained the most frequently cited contributor to meaning in life is interpersonal relationships (e.g., Baum & Stewart, 1990; Debats, 1999; O’Connor & Chamberlain, 1996; De Vogler & Ebersole, 1981; Yalom, 1980), with additional research finding that familial relationships were of particular importance (Delle Fave et al., 2010; Lambert et al., 2010). The qualitative descriptions of meaning in the present research replicated the finding that family is the most important source of meaning in life, followed by other interpersonal relationships.”
- Grouden, ME & Jose, PE (2015, p. 47): “These results suggest that the attainment of meaning is closely related to significant relationships with others, whereas searching for meaning is linked to inward growth and self-transcendence.”
- On the Emptiness of Freedom
- On the Importance of Values in Life
- When to Endure Meaninglessness
- The Positive Effects of Tribalism (Jonathan Haidt)
- Are Pride and Humility Good or Bad? (Affective Ethics)