Thursday, February 13, 2014

Everything Happens for a Reason


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I have to admit that this one is likely to elicit an eye roll from me. The insipid, treacly way that this is generally spoken aloud just makes my teeth itch. The suggestion that someone somewhere has an actual plan for you and that, somehow, all of the crap that you are going through is a part of that unfathomable plan. It suggests Daddy is watching out for you and all of the mess of your life is preparing you for something grand.

Just grates.

I know that sometimes we just say things like this because we have run out of ways to comfort people who are struggling in their lives. I get it that we generally say this in order to let a person know that the pain, loss, misery that they are experiencing will benefit them in some way. But I call bullshit.

Bad things happen. Many many bad things are completely random and totally unfair. There is no luck, good or bad, happening. (Knock on wood.) Some life circumstances are the result of bad decision making, some are unfair starting points in life, some are truly horrific accidents. No where in these circumstances can one find a Grand Plan or a real reason for the bad stuff.

I'm sorry because it would be lovely if there really was a true good force in the universe leading each and every one of us through the dark times, handing things out as lessons, and then leading each of us into the lovely light of Our Future Happy Life. But we all know that this isn't true. Every one of us can name a dozen people who have lived very unhappy, unhealthy, unpleasant lives with no silver lining at the end.

Even as I write this I am aware of how annoyed I am when a person offers this statement to another person. It allows people who live with negative patterns in life to continue those patterns. It allows the unexamined life. It allows people to live with blinders on and to ignore growth areas...because this misery is all for a reason.  It encourages powerlessness and victimization. It suggests that inactivity is OK.

I can guarantee you that the only times that I ever found real comfort and genuine growth in my life is when I recognized the need for it and moved forward, on my own side. Again and again.

There is no reason. There is only moving forward with deliberate choice and action. There is figuring out your thought/behavioral patterns that allow bad things to continue. There is only random painful events that require strength, love, and time. There is here and there is now.

I would never ever suggest that another human being deserves the bad stuff; nor would I suggest that the great future that awaits you will make all of this pain make sense. That is bollocks. I admit that this makes it much harder to truly be there for someone who is suffering. I admit that tossing this meaningless statement out into the trash leaves your pockets empty of useless tools. But it also means that we no longer kid ourselves.

And that means being proactive, honest, and deliberate.


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If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:  Science is Your God 
Or you may enjoy reading:  Atheists Can Not Experience True Joy 
Or try this one:  The Big Question:  Death

8 comments:

  1. This is a statement that really annoys me, particularly when it is said to people grieving the loss of a loved one, especially the loss of a child.

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  2. You have struck a chord with me on this, K. I've thought extensively about how the "comfort" of such words have escaped me for a long time now--most pointedly since June of last year. Several years back, when I'd had my third consecutive miscarriage, a well-meaning someone uttered "You know this is all part of God's plan" to me upon my return to work . It was the first time I realized that those words were of absolutely no comfort. Zero. Zilch. I stood, dumbfounded, blinking back tears as I looked at her in complete pain and horror.
    A few people in my life have tried to push these hollow words on me since the death of my warrior-poet-sister last year, and they crash against me like glass against a wall... because to suggest that my sister--who did spread beauty everywhere she went--lived and fought (and fought... and fought) and died with so many unrealized dreams because of "someone's" plan is the most abhorrent, offensive idea. As Earthly parents, do we dole out pain and anguish to our children as life lessons? Most of us, no. Of course not. We protect our children fiercely. Such a being would have to be a $&%#+&@ of universal proportions.
    To quote one of my favorite films:
    "Sell crazy someplace else; we're all stocked-up here."

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    1. Bridget, I was thinking of you (among others) as I wrote this piece. To have one person, JUST ONE, suggest that these pains and losses are in some Grand Plan is the hugest of insults and the worst kind of brainwashing.

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  3. Hi Karen,
    I agree with you, that line can be so inappropriate (as Bridget's story clearly demonstrates). Now you are going to be shocked! I'm about to quote the bible. There is a verse that I remember from when I was very young, don't ask me which part of the bible it's from as I can't remember (and probably, in context, it is part of another horrific biblical story with very dubious morality). However, this line on its own has always given me great comfort when I have been grieving: '...and it came to pass.' That's it. I wouldn't recommend saying this to someone when they are grieving, as it would probably seem extremely insensitive, but it's always helped me to remember that in the past, this line was true and it will be again. That no matter how terrible the pain, the intensity of it does come to pass. Sometimes you grieve for a lifetime, but the intensity is not the same as in those first days/weeks/months. So again, this is not something you can really say to someone, but I do think it's a good thing to remind yourself when the pain feels like it's tearing through you.
    The only words that I have ever found of comfort when grieving was a Hebrew word I am not sure I can recall correctly. When my dad died, many of his Jewish friends said this word to me. I asked one of them what it meant and roughly the translation was 'I wish I could carry part of your grief for you'. No, 'It's part of a bigger plan', no 'Everything happens for a reason', just recognition that it is very hard to carry so much pain alone. From an anthropological point of view, it does not surprise me that the Hebrew language would have such a precise word for a time of grief.
    Anyway, that's probably the most religious talk you'll ever get out of me! Death, as we all know, is likely to be the hardest thing to deal with as an atheist - which is probably why so many people would rather resort to the fantasy of an afterlife.
    Kindest wishes,
    Eugenia

    P.S.: Bridget, I love that film quote for when you get evangelisers on your doorstep!

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    1. Eugenia, the meaning of that Hebrew word is--I think--one of the gentlest, most loving sentiments one could express to someone who is grieving.
      "I wish I could carry part of your grief for you."
      How incredibly simple and beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing this.
      And yes--that is a wonderfully useful line. ;-)

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    2. Eugenia, Hey, I don't mind Bible talk. Bring forth any good pieces you can find from any writing!

      I appreciate this part of your contribution to this discussion: I wish to carry some of your pain. Because, in my mind, this is all we can offer someone in that moment of deepest despair.
      I've write about death this week and so, not surprisingly, I've been thinking about those moments after Dad's death that really meant something to me. Of the many many hours and the many many people, the things that meant something to me were the simple presence of beloved people. Just having them in the room would sometimes cut through and warm me...connect me to someone else... Some of those moments are quite golden in my mind when I have recalled them...

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  4. As a former Christian for some reason the 'everything happens for a reason' mentality has been hard to shake as it seems to be ingrained in religious culture, media and society. I catch myself thinking it in response to some of my own life circumstances. That said I do not think it is a valid response but I think the trained brain and the lies we tell ourseld are pretty incredible. Thanks for a great post!

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    1. Oh, I agree that this sentence (and Many Others) are habitual responses in the face of grave emotional pain. I think I have been Out of the religion game long enough that some of these hollow platitudes are beginning to stick out like a sore thumb to me.

      Yeah, you are so right. The more deliberate and aware we become with our language and thoughts, the more surprising these words are!

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