Believing that nifty mantra wholesale can be hard to swallow sometimes, especially when ‘everything’ ain’t so pretty. We want to believe things happen for a reason simply because order seems a whole lot better than chaos, right? We tell ourselves and others, when we don’t see any other explanation for things that happen in life, that it’s part of a bigger picture in the karma universe. When lives are turned upside down. When our spouse, parent or child is gone in an unthinkable instant. When a sudden loss of job, income, or house leaves us upended and lost. Thinking it was all part of a greater plan might bring momentary comfort, but it can also leave us frustrated and stuck.
We look for reasons everywhere. We try to justify why the world, and the people in it, behaves as it does. We become scarred and scared by experiences that seem to happen for no reason whatsoever. Cancer. Alzheimers. Death. (Anything on that one? I’ll wait . . .) Oh sure, eventually we learn and grow from all the hard stuff. Done right, we even become better people from living through those times, but the ‘why’? That’s the million dollar question.
Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried. Megan Devine
Things can and do happen for no reason at all except one that’s universal – we are just human beings having a human experience (in other words, shit happens). In our bumbling search for answers, we forget that no one promised us a rose garden. So, we run in circles looking for cause because the effect often sucks. We look back on our choices, decisions, roads taken – and not taken. We might find a breadcrumb, a clue we hope will lead us to believable reasons. But when illness visits, loss completely ravages, we lose our livelihood or worse, someone we loved more than our own life, no facsimile of a reason will ever be good enough.
There’s no earthly way we can sugar coat the why of murder or child abuse, decimating tornadoes or the crushing grief of SIDS. As much as we yearn for any emotional or psychological balm, no matter how well meaning, any phrase du’jour about life events having a reason can’t take away real pain. In fact, it might make people feel even worse. As lousy as it sounds, feeling desolate when bad things happen is part and even necessary to the grieving process. There’s no easy out and attempting to explain it away with platitudes, just get in the way.
“Don’t try to fix me. Acknowledge me. Stand with me. Be with me.” Tim Lawrence
Would I really love a nice, pat answer for the why’s of hard stuff? Hell, yea. I’m just a girl in search of a reason to believe there’s always a reason. We can do the math. We can trace the maze and discover origins of how cancer came to grow into a wildfire. In time, we can find our way back in time to decisions we made that might have tripped our present unhappy situation. Like a pebble thrown in a pond, our actions can cause ripples in any direction, even the best kind of ripple, like random acts of kindness. Then again, we know life is liberally sprinkled with a variety of ripples, many with no visible or remotely understandable ratonale. Most things are, as my granddaughter likes to say – random.
Christopher Reeve, whose life was changed irrevocably in a riding fall, would spend his entire life in a prison of paralysis he could have never imagined. When asked if he believed things happen for a reason, he said that we create our own meaning for our situation. In the best of circumstance, that ‘meaning’ embodies growth, more understanding, and compassion. Crazy, right? Reeves epitomized how, instead of dwelling despondently on the cause, he created something positive – spinal-injury research.
We are all excruciatingly human. We suffer, struggle and go through all that life on this planet brings from joy to heartache. Pain is as integral to the journey as happiness is. We don’t ask why great things happen to us; we’re just damn grateful when they do. But while pain and joy don’t always come in equal measure, good luck with finding the reason for either. The more we go down that rabbit hole, the more we get stuck. All we can really do is go with the flow and try to keep our balance in both.
They say that bad things happen for a reason, but wise words don’t stop the bleeding.
If we truly believe everything happens for a reason, we’d give a pass to war and poverty; plane crashes and climate change. We’d figure, hey, it’s not so bad because it was meant to be and part of the universe’s plan for good. Really? If, on the other hand, we believe that we are helpless in a cruel world, we’ve taken up residence in a no-win scenario. We’d flow aimlessly, from one random event to another, wanting the pain to stop so we can find the silver lining, unable to do anything else . Instead, and this isn’t at all easy sometimes, we just work with what we have. If, we search for purpose and meaning instead of reason in all that happens to us, we can disconnect from expectations and results. Bad things may still happen but at least we can choose how they affect our life.
Everything that’s ever happened to us is linked. The why doesn’t matter as much as the ‘how’ we grow — through what we go through.
4 thoughts on “Everything Happens for a Reason . . . and other fairytales.”
I have never liked that expression, “Everything happens for a reason,” especially when it has been said at a bad time. Its value, I suppose, is in the focus on the future and whatever good may eventually come. At the time of the bad event, though, it really doesn’t help.
Thank you so much for your thoughts. These words are one of those mean-well platitudes that come out at the worst times it seems. Hopefully, we will think and consider beyond the words to what we need to heal and move forward.
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Yes, it is meant well. We all need to come up with better ways to show our empathy.
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