2 What Is The Difference Between Happening-Truth And Story-Truth Achieving The Fulfilled Life – Three Essentials

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Achieving The Fulfilled Life – Three Essentials

ONE OF MY FAVORITE AUTHORS, Os Guinness, says in his book Time for Truth[1]

“To have a fulfilling life, three essentials are required: a clear sense of personal identity, a deep sense of faith and meaning, and a strong sense of purpose and mission.”[2]

If there’s one thing we all want it is a fulfilling life. Let’s take a journey and discover what this means.

Guinness uses the story of Primo Levi,[3] an Auschwitz survivor, to illustrate the importance of all three aspects of this hypothesis toward a fulfilling life. Levi was driven to preach the lessons of the Nazi regime so it would never happen again, giving millions a sense of purpose out of the tragedy, and ensuring the human cost and legacy would never be forgotten. Yet the appearance of inner strength was transitory for Levi, who eventually had the same tragic end to his life as countless numbers of colleagues-he suicided.

He had journaled only weeks prior to his death that he had no answer to the riddles of life. A life that offered so much hope and purpose to so many crippled from the crimes of World War II was suddenly thwarted, absolutely. Even though he suicided, his memory, and what he stood for, should endure.

Notwithstanding this, Guinness uses Levi’s story to highlight the critical weakness in his modus operandi. He simply “lacked any sense of faith and meaning with which to interpret and handle his harrowing experience.”[4] (Italics added for emphasis.) Without a solid schema to base his life on, his “strength” became untenable.

It highlights that whilst one might have two of the three qualities all sewn up, if the one missing is a real weakness, it will inevitably stand in opposition to the achievement of a fulfilling life. And this is how it is for people without some sense of firm spirituality, and good faith (for there are plenty of “bad” faiths out there). Bad faith could be described as a theorem lacking the fundamental plausibility of truth. This is how it was for Levi. A “dark combination of Auschwitz and atheism” eventually confounded him.[5] He had no way of comprehending the more unbelievable and horrific experiences of life he’d witnessed in terms he could understand, and therefore live with. A sense of faith could have given him that.

Many recognise the need to live for truth, but some of the smartest ironically fall for a lie; feeling they have to create the truth and not simply discover it. Guinness calls us to consider Nietzsche, Camus, Sinatra, and ultimately, Levi[6]-all of whom, whilst brilliant men, could not accept basic spiritual truth. Without truth there is no strength.

Yet, there’s the other two to consider: personal identity, and purpose and meaning. Imagine having a deep sense of faith and meaning, and still have only a vague sense of self or an insufficient sense of purpose in life. We need to focus on all three if we truly desire happiness, contentment, and fulfilment.

Establishing and being comfortable with our personal identity is a process that requires courage and honesty. There is no other way. Likewise, finding a sense of purpose and meaning requires much soul-searching. In this day and age it can be more a case of needing to focus on one thing and one thing only, as we can be caught up in a multitude of foci. We should continue searching until we feel positively and sustainably gripped in the mission that captures our imagination. There’s at least one for every person.

I am suggesting the importance of self-reflection and the commitment to take on the following activity.

The Activity:

Clear sense of personal identity

  • What are your values?
  • What defines “you”?
  • Do you know your personality type? What are your preferences and competencies?
  • How well do you know yourself? What are your fears?
  • Deep sense of faith and meaning

  • What/Who do you believe in?
  • Is it truth? Can it stand up to scholarly examination?
  • What is it that provides your ‘hope’?
  • Strong sense of purpose and mission

  • What drives and motivates you?
  • What is your purpose in life?
  • What would you give your life for?
  • © Steve J. Wickham, 2008. All rights reserved Worldwide.

    [1] Guinness, Os. (2000) Time for Truth: Living free in a world of lies, hype & spin (Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan) 128 pages. This book is packed full of truth and swipes on postmodernism. Another brilliant offering from Guinness is “The Call,” Finding and fulfilling the central purpose of your life (2003) by Word Publishing Group, Nashville, Tennessee.

    [2] Guinness, Ibid., p. 71.

    [3] More general information is freely available, for instance: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primo_Levi

    [4] Guinness, Ibid., p. 72.

    [5] Guinness, Ibid., p. 72.

    [6] Guinness, Ibid., p. 74.

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