Something has been on my mind/bothering me for some time of late. It has to do with the phrases “everything happens for a reason,” and “challenges/pain in life are there to make you stronger.” Both of those notions seem tied to a belief in fate. A destiny that you need to accept, and then find the meaning in if moved to do so. This is what was charted out for you in life, and when you fully come to terms with that, and can move forward, you will be a better person. You will have grown from not only the experience itself, painful as it was, but also from the acceptance of the experience as a stepping stone to your greatness. You see, it all happens for a reason.
What a bunch of wisdom and bunk all tied up in a neat little package.
It's true. Everything that happens, leads us to the next place. That is just a given. I am ready a little earlier than usual and I head out to work. I get about 10 minutes out on the road, and realize I forgot my phone. I have time, so I drive home. I head back out. I get in a fender bender a few minutes from home. There are many “what if”s that can be asked here. What if I'd just left my phone at home for the day? What would the ramifications of that have been? Was the fender bender a “better” outcome? Was I “supposed” to leave my phone at home because I was destined for that fender bender?
Now, let's add to the story. After the accident, I am late for work, and it was my last warning. I am fired and now am unemployed. All because I left for work early (seemingly positive) and then forgot my phone (seemingly negative), and the subsequent fender bender (seemingly negative). Now, the idea of “everything happens for a reason” - what? I was “supposed” to lose my job??? This is going to make me stronger?
And the story continues: while getting the car repaired, I meet an amazing human in the waiting area, and we not only strike up a friendship; not only that, but through them I meet some other folks who have an incredible work opportunity to offer. “Aha!! NOW I see that it DID all happen for a reason...” (We especially love to believe it all happens for a reason when the end result is something that we want).
And so on and so forth.
It just doesn't work that way.
The truth is, that when you look at the things that have happened to you in your life, often you can see an amazing web of connectivity – how this event led to that meeting which led to that heartache which led to years of pain, which led to a breakdown, that led to peace...and interspersed in it all are other threads, threads of connection with friends that supported you, others that didn't, new experiences, relived old ones, and on and on. And, often in hindsight it seems that there really is some reason to it. And it actually makes some sense. And this realization is valuable and something to be treasured. Because it can be a reminder, when times are rough, that something else will come along. Yet, that depth of understanding does not equal the simplistic statement: “everything happens for a reason.”
The idea or belief that everything happens for a reason is not what I am objecting to. Believe it, or not, as you will. It is the use of the phrase as a catch-all, thrown out randomly, as if you are offering some form of wisdom to a person in pain that can be harmful. (Of course, if you do use it, I am certain there is a reason).
The use of that particular statement, where, when the outcome in the moment is dystopic, deflects the experience of the human in favor of some philosophical workings of the universe. This does no one any favors and can create feelings of guilt for being so devastated, and a sense of deficiency and underdeveloped wisdom for not seeing ever so clearly how it all will work out for the best. The concept of “everything happens for a reason,” if applied too soon to a very real trauma, can also serve as a sugar coating, and block the much needed experience of the event to be released.
I have similar thoughts about the phrase, “x, y, z, will make you stronger,” and perhaps will write on that later. But the premise is very similar.
I wonder why you are reading this? There must be a profound reason!!
Let me know...