Pet Peeve #39: “Everything Happens for a Reason”

Disclaimer: This entry is about beliefs and belief systems. If your beliefs are different than mine, I completely respect that and I’m not trying to convince you otherwise. Let’s just talk.

I’ve heard the phrase “everything happens for a reason” thousands of times. From strangers on Match.com to friends and family, it’s a very common phrase, and I don’t doubt that people believe it. We’re human. We want to feel like our lives have meaning, that we are part of something bigger than themselves.

I personally believe that we most certainly are part of something much bigger than ourselves–something so much bigger, in fact, that everything in our lives does not actually happen for a reason. Good things, bad things, little things, big things. Things happen, and we give them reason.

I don’t think this is a black and white rule–in fact, it’s mostly a fuzzy gray area. I think some things do actually happen for a reason. But we have absolutely no idea what those things are.

Why is this important for me to share? For that matter, why is it a pet peeve of mine? Because I think there are times when it’s a hurtful, dishonest thing to say or think, and there are other times, some of them life-defining moments, when personal responsibility is extremely important. Some examples of the two:

  1. When a child falls down and scrapes his knee, did that happen for a reason? When a child gets cancer, is that for a reason? What about an adult? When you’re playing a videogame and you achieve a high score, is that for a greater reason? What about reading this blog entry? Is there a reason for that? My point is that “everything” is a huge, all-encompassing word. Think about it on a cellular or molecular level. Think about how many “things” happen every second, every millisecond. Do you truly believe that every one of those things happens for a reason? I believe in God, and I believe in reason, but I don’t believe that every single little thing happens for a reason. I believe that when a child scrapes his knee, God didn’t push him down to teach him a lesson. Maybe it’s just me, but I believe in a God that’s much bigger than a schoolyard bully.
  2. When you succeed at something, does that just “happen” out of thin air, or was the reason that you worked hard at it and you persevered and you deserve it? And when you fail at something, does that just “happen,” or did you personally come up short? There is great strength in admitting that you don’t have complete control over your life, because you don’t. You could get hit by a car tomorrow and there’s a 97% chance that you couldn’t have done anything to prevent it. But that 3% matters. Take responsibility for that 3% and make the world what you want it to be. The world is not out to get you.

I believe that everything does not happen for a reason. Rather, I believe that some things happen for a reason. What do you believe?