When It Comes to the Meaning of Life, the Question is Not “What”, But “Why”
by J Warner Wallace
I’ve written before about the importance of recognizing the role of the Creator in determining life’s purpose, but as a non-believer, I had little problem determining the purpose of my life. As a man who rejected God’s existence, I was comfortable assigning meaning to my life. What was the purpose of life? Well, for me, it was to live nobly and enforce the laws as a police officer, to be a faithful husband to my wife and a good father for my kids. I had no problem answering the “what” question. I failed to recognize, however, that the more important questions did not begin with “what”. When it comes to the meaning of life, the most important questions begin with “why”.
Why is it noble to enforce the law and be a good husband and father? Why is my standard of good and evil the correct standard? Why do I think my ideas about purpose and meaning are important or honorable in the first place? Are my ideas about purpose and meaning simply a matter of opinion,
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or do I think I’m living a life that is objectively valuable and meaningful? I first discovered the importance of these “why” questions as I became saturated in the subcultures of our society. As a patrol officer, a member of the gang detail and then a member of the career criminal team, I found that the offenders I investigated had no problem assigning meaning to their lives; these folks lived contentedly within the purposes they had constructed for themselves. The gangsters I worked with for two years lived within a world of values and mores that were quite different from my own. Their goals and desires were influenced by their status within the gang and this status was achieved as they rejected much of what I valued in my own life. The more they misbehaved, the more stature they achieved within their own group. They definitely had their own ideas related to purpose and meaning, and they retained these values throughout their lives, both in and out of custody…
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