Everything Happens for a Reason

PlatitudeDay Two of Dumb Platitudes I’ve seen on Facebook continues with this nasty little choice: Everything Happens for a Reason. Interestingly, it is almost always said with the best of intentions. Usually we hear it when a child is pulled from her house, thrown into a field, critically injured, lingers a few days, and then dies. It’s often used in conjunction with God Acts in Mysterious Ways, It was her Time, and other such well meaning phrases.

The idea is that when tragedy strikes it will comfort us to know that there was a reason behind the event. Many people might actually find this somewhat comforting but I think it is important to understand why it is so dangerous.

First, let’s examine the real meaning behind the platitude. It tells us there is a blueprint/master plan for our lives. As if we were a house that must be constructed with an end purpose in mind. You were born for a reason, you contracted strep throat in third grade for a reason, you dropped your dinner knife at the restaurant for a reason, you moved your forefinger slightly to the left at 3:03 p.m. on Monday, March 5, 2012 for a precise and important reason. Everything is an all encompassing word and it must be. If even one thing doesn’t happen for a reason that means that it was an event within our control and invalidates the master plan.

And that, my loyal followers, is why this phrase is so dangerous. It teaches people that someone else controls the events of their lives and this is false. I want to state this as clearly as possible. Things do not happen for a reason. Everything that ever happened – happened. Everything that never happened – didn’t happen. This idea that our lives are steered by a magical hand forces us to relinquish the controls.

Your life is what you make it. Bad things will happen. Good things will happen. You will make decisions and they will turn out well or they will turn out poorly but they are your decisions and it is your life and your life alone. This is Libertarianism, this is Critical Thinking. This is being empowered! I write this blog, I drive with caution, I go to the gym, I eat healthy (or not), but it is always, always, always, me.

There are things out of my control, cancer for example, but it is important to understand that’s okay as well. I control what I can and do my best with the things I cannot control. I don’t give the credit to the master plan and I don’t blame it.

And now I get to what is most important. How to build and maintain a nation that allows people the greatest ability to make their own lives. There is no question a child born in the Congo might be raped and murdered or starve to death and has less chance to make their own lives than a child born in the United States. A perfect government is one that provides the opportunity for education, provides safety, and allows the best and brightest to succeed because it gives us the freedom to make our lives whatever we choose. We fail because of our actions, we succeed because of our choices.

Sounds good, no?

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Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

4 thoughts on “Everything Happens for a Reason

    • Right, right. I know you’re joking, Jim. But the difference between me doing something to cause an effect is very different than what is being proposed by the platitude. I act for a reason. Things don’t happen for a reason. I move my finger to click the letter “T” but me clicking the Letter “T” didn’t happen for some overarching reason beyond my control. I did it with a specific purpose. That is empowerment. That’s what I’m talking about. That’s the whole point. Thanks for the comment!

  1. All joking aside, yes, I am responsible for my actions. Some I wish I could say were fate, but nope, I have regrets because of my own decisions.

    On the other hand, I have a lot more smiles due to my good decisions. I agree.

  2. Pingback: Free Will – Does it Matter? « tomliberman

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