reason: noun 1. a cause, explanation, or justification for an action of event
There’s a snarky greeting card by Emily McDowell studio that makes my heart sing – it reads “Please let me be the first to punch the next person who tells you everything happens for a reason.”
The “everything happens for a reason” maxim is often akin to pouring salt directly in another’s still open wound. I know people who believe this, heck, I even manage to love some people who believe this, but to say these words out loud, to suggest that this is gospel to someone who is in the depths of suffering, is cruel.
In my perspective, to believe this, you must have either a copious amount of privilege or a staggering amount of faith.
When your barometer for suffering is delineated with inconveniences and minor setbacks on your ultimately triumphant road map, then it can be easy to rationalize the losses as part of some master plan. Those in this category are willfully deluding themselves, tuning out the incessant supply of counterpoints that exist, of good, decent people who know nothing but suffering, of systemic injustices that result in a persistently unfair playing field, forever tipping the odds against some. We can trace the cause of these dynamics, sure, but we’ve never been able to justify them. Any attempts to do so are inherently dehumanizing.
Yet those who know suffering well can at times be the very ones to lean on the idea that everything happens for a reason, albeit a reason that may be perennially out of their grasp. At times, I almost admire this mindset, the way it trusts in a universe that I fear has not earned the benefit of the doubt.
Instead of trust, I found I feel outrage. I regularly feel incensed that sometimes things just don’t work out, not just for myself, but for other beautiful, worthy souls. I can breathe fire thinking about the odds that some must overcome to even taste a hint of the breezy, glib entitlement that others luxuriate in.
Things happen. Sometimes effects have clear causes and other times they defy our ability to structure a compelling narrative. Life may contain moments in which your glories feel earned, your victories merit-based, your blessings based in a reasonable distribution of all good and glowing things, but this doesn’t mean they actually are.
It is better, and yes a bit scarier, to do your best anyway, never expecting it to culminate in much of anything. It is wiser to refrain from adorning yourself in the trappings of all you believe you’ve earned, kinder to instead welcome the sunlight on your skin for what it is – serendipity, luck – and scoot over to make room for another person to sit, to share in this illuminated instant, to savor it, relish it even, without forgetting that their very presence in this luminous space creates a shadow under which another equally deserving soul may lurk.
And if it’s you there, in the dark, I don’t want you to think for one second that it’s because you deserve it, because you’ve done anything wrong or you’re inherently flawed. The truth is we’re all imperfect. As scary as it is to accept that things may happen without reasons, it can also be freeing. It can liberate you from the mental prison of “why me?” and allow you to see that it may just be the fact that everyone can’t have everything means that sometimes you don’t get the things you are most convinced you need.