It’s the comment divorcing reality stars and athletes dumped by their teams love to trot out: “Everything happens for a reason.” I hate this sentiment. It’s largely meaningless, it’s moronic and it’s nothing more than an excuse for avoiding responsibility and facing up to the facts.
Picture by Tropical Pete
This train thought popped unbidden into my head when I accidentally saw Kim Kardashian blathering about her ridiculous life on some dreadful breakfast TV show, but she’s not the only guilty party. As a sentiment it’s becoming all-pervasive in our culture. Throw it into Google News and you’ll find athletes and singers trotting out this cliché with reckless abandon. We might not actively subscribe to religious belief, but we’re perfectly happy to dismiss major events in our lives as being carefully orchestrated by unseen forces for our explicit personal benefit.
A friend of mine said “Everything happens for a reason” to me the other day while explaining why she had stayed with her alcoholic partner for so long. I try not to be a complete jerk all the time, so I didn’t say: “Yes, and the reason is you were too scared/ignorant/smashed yourself to get out sooner”. I don’t know which reason is correct, but I suspect if she doesn’t try to find out, she’ll end up repeating the same mistake with the next bloke that comes along. In this context, “everything happens for a reason” is not helpful.
Working out the actual reason might be helpful, but this phrase seems to exist entirely as an excuse to avoid doing that. We don’t need to know the reason, apparently; we just need to con ourselves into thinking that this unexpected event was predicted by someone. It’s an ostrich sentiment, and very few people look good with their head concealed and their arse sticking into the air.
Blithely proclaiming that anything that happens to you is all part of some purposeful master plan (the details of which you don’t profess to understand) in any way whatsoever doesn’t make you look sage and self-aware. It makes you look stupid and self-indulgent. It makes you look unwilling to seek out or acknowledge your flaws. It makes you look ridiculous.
Yes, things will happen to you that you have no control over. And yes, sometimes finding out the reason won’t give you any control over future events. We can’t control everything that happens on a planet of seven billion people who constantly interact. But that makes it all the more important to seize the opportunities where we can take control, even if that means acknowledging our mistakes.
If there’s a reason that something has happened, make it your business to find out that reason. At worst, you’ll be better informed. At best, you’ll avoid the same problem in the future. And either way, you won’t come across sounding like someone who aspires to be Kim Kardashian.