The Search for Meaning and Values



The Search for Meaning and Values is a really important topic that features on both the Junior (Section D: The Question of Faith) and also Senior Religious Education syllabus.(Section A: The Search for Meaning and Values) It can also be used in non- exam religion.


Before you start off this question, you must make the students think does everything question? What does questioning mean? Why do we question?

Here is a questioner handout to start off this discussion– Introduction to the questioner worksheet.

This little nine year boy sums up life. Many of us qustion ‘What is life?’. He sums it up perfectly when he states that it is a ‘endless quest without knowing what the quest is’. Sometimes children teach us more than we teach them! 

This video clip illustrates 3rd graders teaching us about the meaning of life and resilience. 

In this thought-provoking and eye opening video,  a variety of speakers, hailing from a diverse range of racial and cultural backgrounds, perform a spoken word piece.

‘They make an important point: WE ARE NOT WHAT WE LOOK LIKE.’

There is more to us as individuals than what we look like, where we were born, what religion we practice, underneath all these layers we are the same. We are human.

‘Who would you be if the world never gave you a label? No, we would be one!! Together!  These labels blind us from seeing someone as who they really are.’

Another great video clip by Prince Ea questions why we are not doing more about climate change. The power is in our hands.   

This video clip will make the pupils think ‘Who really matters in my life’, Who gives my life meaning?’, ‘Who would I be lost without?’. 

Number the biggest influences in our life 1 to 5-Number your influences number 1 to 5

Influences- Religious retreat worksheetinfluences religious retreat worksheet

Has technology taken over our lives? This is a great image to show your pupils which shows how the different generations experience life. Which is better?

She is a wonderful example of how to fully live in the moment! She shows us how to be mindful and how to be present!

old woman in a crowd


From time to time we stop and think about our lives and wonder why things are as they are. Human Beings have a need to understand what our life, and life in general, is all about. At such times, we might listen to our favourite music, finding inspiration in the words of a song. People don’t always read between the lines with lyrics when they should because they teach really great life lessons. You may think that some of these songs are not exactly for you but maybe take a chance and listen with your heart instead of just your head, it may make a difference to you.

Write these questions on the whiteboard.

  1. What is the song called?
  2. What is the song about?
  3. What questions of meaning are raised in the song?
  4. What answers does the song give to these fundamental questions? 

Adele- Hello

In Adele’s ‘Hello’, her first single in three years, the British songstress is greeting someone for the first time in years. Who exactly is on the other side of that “hello”? Judging from Adele’s other work, the obvious answer would seem to be an ex-boyfriend. It’s theoretically in the same vein as songs like “Someone Like You” and “Rolling in the Deep” from 21, her second album. The video depicts her calling an old lover. However, the song is far less literal than that. The meaning of ‘Hello’ isn’t about reconnecting with an ex-boyfriend. “Hello” is about Adele reconnecting with herself. Everyone goes through times in their lives when they lose themselves. In her Twitter announcement of 25, her third studio album and first in four years, Adele talked about growing up and finding herself again. She called25 a “make-up record” because, as she put it, “I’m making up with myself. 25 is about getting to know who I’ve become without realizing,” she wrote. So in the opening lines of “Hello,” Adele greets someone. “Hello, it’s me/ I was wondering/ If after all these years/ You’d like to meet/ To go over everything,” she sings. Taking “Hello” as a song addressed to herself, these lines become about a woman looking to rediscover who she is after years of not knowing. That jibes beautifully with 25‘s stated mission. In the chorus, Adele says hello from two different places: “the outside” and “the other side.” The former would seem to refer not to location, but to thinking a bit beyond herself to better understand who she is now. The latter is similar — it’s about a woman who lived through a very difficult relationship, as detailed in21, and the influx of fame and came out on “the other side” of it. Much has been made of the use of a phone in both song and video form of “Hello.” In the song, Adele sings about calling someone at home “a thousand times.” On its surface, that seems odd. Why in 2015 is she calling someone on their land line? Taken as Adele trying to connect to herself, however, it makes sense. “Hello” is not a literal song. The “million miles” she says separates her from the person she’s addressing aren’t physical — they’re emotional. No one who’s been through what Adele has could possibly be in the same place psychologically. In four years, she’s grown leaps and bounds. “Hello,” and by extension 25, are an exploration of what it’s like to come together with yourself after such growth.  With the release of this song, Adele seems to be saying she has met herself. Now, she’s ready to introduce this new Adele to us.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis- ‘Same Love’.

‘Same Love’ is a great song for using for the search for meaning. “Same Love was a song that I wanted to write for a long time but I didn’t know exactly how to address the issue,” he explains. “I knew I wanted to write a song about gay rights and homophobia within the hip-hop community and the world.” Macklemore, whose uncle is gay, said it wasn’t just the issue of marriage equality that fuelled the song, but also the flagrant use of ‘gay’ as a derogative term in the hip-hop industry, and the world.  A couple of years ago, Ryan and I would say ‘that’s gay’ because it’s so embedded in our culture,” he admits. “You have a conversation with a couple of people and they kinda call you out about it and all of a sudden you stop saying it.” The musician believes it’s only a matter of time before rappers and hip-hop artists stop using words like ‘faggot’ and ‘that’s gay’ as just another lyric. I think it’s happening right now… It takes a little while, but eventually you eliminate that type of vocabulary from your everyday life and I think that hopefully that is what a song like Same Love does, that it makes people second guess their language.

“From the people that come to our shows, a lot of feedback from them is, ‘I used to say those words, not I think twice, now I don’t say them any more.’ It’s really about awareness.”  While more and more pro-gay music artists are coming out, Same Love marks the first time a male mainstream hip-hop artist has rapped positively about homosexuality.

Ellen DeGeneres is a fan, saying “no other artists in hip-hop history have ever taken a stand defending marriage equality the way they have.” 

Beyonce- ‘I was here’.

Life is about being remembered for the positive impacts that you have had on others in the world and the things you have done to make it a better place rather than how rich, famous or successful you were. We should live life to the fullest so we do not have any regrets and that means that when we have the chance to do good and choose not to because of its “inconvenience” in our lives, that will remain with us and is not the piece of ourselves that we wish to leave behind on this earth. This song emphasises that Beyonce wants to do positive things in peoples lives.  She has achieved to point of more than what she thought, but she still wants 2 do more. The 2nd verse reminds us that she wants to be remembered for her good deeds. She wants to make a difference and make her mark on the world. It reminds me think of how valuable life is and how we all impact the world somehow. She wants to leave her footprints in the sands of time.

Justin Bieber- ‘Purpose’

“Feeling like I’m breathing my last breath/ Feeling like I’m walking my last steps/ Look at all of these tears I’ve wept/ Look at all the promises that I’ve kept.”

This is probably the deepiest song on his new album as Justin pretty much questions his entire existence. Once Justin confronts his demons and embraces his faith, he realises he’s been given the greatest gift: purpose. Justin ends the song with a spoken word outro where he says that he’s only human and trying the best that he can, but it isn’t always easy to make the right decisions.

All the songs on his new album ‘Purpose’ search for the meaning of life. This is not a suprise as he was giving through a hard time and a time of growth when he was writing the album.

Taylor Swift- ‘Shake it off’.

In this song, Taylor teaches us that people will always critique us in life. However, we must not let it get to us. We must shake it off the past, the hurt and the judgement. No matter what anyone says about you, keep ‘cruising and moving’ through life because ‘it is going to be alright’. In life, there will be haters who bring people down. That is not the purpose of life so ignore them and ‘shake, shake it off’. Like Taylor, if you like dancing then dance. Who cares if everyone is watching? Who cares if you are the only one dancing. Enjoy life and do whatever makes you happy so keep ‘grooving’. Just be yourself and love yourself! Taylor tells us not to let anyone affect us. It will just ruin your life. Ignore them and love life and do not forget to ‘shake it off’.

Selena Gomez- Revival 

The song starts off with “I dive into the future, but I’m blinded by the sun. I’m reborn in every moment, so who knows what I’ll become,” the song begins with a monologue that seems to not have been taken from any pre-existing poem or quote but to be uniquely written for the song. In this song, she is declaring to the world that she dragged herself out of her dark places and came out stronger for it.

“This is my revival, this is a revival,” has so many different meanings to it, and it’s also so true. Not only is this a revival Gomez is back on the musical scene, she’s taking control of her career but it’s also a personal revival — she’s taking control of her life. Gomez is back in control, and it feels good, and it looks good on her as well. She’s happy. She’s better and stronger than ever before. And every person, fan or anti-fan, can learn a lesson from her journey and use this song as their empowering inspiration.

Selena describes this song as ‘everything in one song. Everything that I’ve been feeling the past year or two years. And ultimately, what struck me the most is just wanting to be heard. I’ve grown up in front of people. I’ve grown up in front of the world. One of my favorite lines is, I’ll admit it’s been painful, but I’ll be honest and grateful, because ultimately, it’s led me and pushed me to be where I am today. Nothing has been handed to me. I’ve had to strive for it, and really put my all in it.”

Like Bieber, Selena was going through a period of growth and transition recording this album, she also has many songs on her new album which reflect the search for meaning such as ‘Rise’, ‘Kill Em Wit Kindness’, ‘Nobody’.

‘Nobody’ is about Selena’s relationship with God.

You could also use Selena’s song ‘Who Say’s’. 


The Search for Meaning and Values is clear to see in many films. Such as:

‘Tuesdays wit Morrie’.

Based on a true story. The trailer sums up this move perfectly. It is a beautiful film that everyone needs to watch.


Based on a true story. Reese Witherspoon’s stars Cheryl as who has had a tough life so she goes on a path of destruction until finally she decides to walk 1000 miles to find herself. ‘What if I could forgive myself, what if I was sorry, what if I could go back in time, I would not do a single thing differently, all those things I did were the things that got me here’.

‘Life of Pi’

A young boy searces for the meaning of life and faith.



‘Silver Linings Playbook’


After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own. Together they try to find out the purpose of life.

‘Fight Club’


While brutal, this movie touches on interesting themes. Are the narrator and Tyler trying to find meaning through anarchism and violence? Is Fight Club a scathing critique of our consumer-driven culture? How does this film explore the themes of masculinity and/or emasculation?

Disney’s ‘Mulan’


A film which illustrates the search for meaning is the popular Disney film “Mulan”. It poses the question “what is justice?” Thrasymachus, a well-known Sophist from the senior Religious Education syllabus course, said “Justice is simply the interest of the stronger.”. Unfortunately this is often true and it is obvious that this is one of the points the movie is trying to make. In our search for meaning we should strive for real justice not just power.

From this action we learn that family has a very important meaning in life. Mulan’s action is not only one of defiance, but also one of love and compassion. In searching for meaning one can’t do it alone and family should be there to help you along the way. I know from personal experience that I would not be where I am today, without the help of my parents and siblings.

In the film, Mulan runs away to make her parents proud because she feels inadequate. Her feelings of inadequacy are expressed in the lines “Look at me, I will never pass for a perfect bride-or a perfect daughter”. We all go through phases of self-doubt in our search for meaning, but I feel it is important to remember that our search is for us, and although other people are important, we should never put anyone before ourselves.

Once we have found our place in the world, we have found meaning. When we are searching for meaning, we must search deep within ourselves. Our ability to conquer obstacles, to come out the other side of suffering stronger and to love even in the hardest of times are all things which I would consider important in the search for meaning

‘I Heart Huckabees’


In this comedy, Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin play existential detectives you can hire to investigate the meaning of your life.

The Search for Meaning in film introduction power point– Search-for-Meaning—Film

Donal Walsh


Donal’s story is truly inspiring. I have read ‘Donal’sMMountain’. It is a fantasic book that gripped me from the onset and throughout.I love teaching about Donal as I fee he has a lot to offer the students. The studnets love learning about him too!  It really makes you think about life. #livelife

Here is a worksheet for the above video clip about Donal-Donal Walsh video clip worksheet



One thought on “The Search for Meaning and Values

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s