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Everything Happens for a Reason... or does it?

Updated on May 6, 2011

Everything Happens for a Reason


I heard someone say today- “everything happens for a reason.”  I started to think about this phrase.  It can be comforting for many.  We feel like there is a greater plan and every aspect—even the unfortunate ones—have an ultimate purpose that is somehow for the best.

Is this really true?  Does everything happen for a reason?  When I consider it, I become wary of the absolute.  How can EVERYTHING happen for a reason? That certainly includes a lot of different things and doesn’t leave much room for anything floating around for no good reason.

As people, we are always trying to make sense out of our world.  We try to understand what is real, what is not.  We may become pretty stubborn in our views of what is real. Sometimes it seems holding onto the feeling that we understand what is true and real is more important than getting closer to the truth and reality.  One thing I have noticed is the phrase “everything happens for a reason” that is often shared in comfort can backfire.  When something tragic happens, people who believe everything happens for a reason are left with the feeling they deserved something bad to happen to them, they are being punished, and they are somehow inherently bad.  How we think of an event in our lives can be so much more powerful than the event itself.  We can choose to overcome and we can choose to give up.  We have a great deal of control over our reactions and our reactions truly have the greatest impact on our future.

If we believe our whole lives are not planned and following a greater plan, we often feel as though our lives have no meaning.  We can find our own meaning in our lives.  We can find the meaning that each random event brings us.  Meaning does not need to be handed to us or come from a mystical source.  We can choose to learn from events in our lives or continue to make the same mistakes over and over.  We can choose to accept events as something that occurred that we can overcome or we can view the event as punishment or something that shows us we do not deserve any better.         

Perhaps it is less important to understand why things happen and it is more important to understand how what we think affects our lives.  Believing something bad happened because we deserved it or are being punished will have a negative rippling affect on our lives.  When a belief has a negative impact on our attitude, thoughts, and behavior, we need to be ready to re-evaluate and find a new belief that allows us to be hopeful, positive, and empowered as individuals with great potential and great influence over the lives we lead.


Everything Happens for a Reason

The Harm in Believing Everything Happens for a Reason

 As you can see from the video, belieivng everything happens for a reason is comforting and can help you make peace with current events.

There can be a downside to this type of thinking.

It is positive when a person decides to take comfort in this saying, to surrender themselves to a greater power and let go of some of the overcontrol they are exuding over their lives.

It is harmful and incredibly negative when this saying leads a person to believe the "reason" has less to do with a greater purpose in the future and more to do with punishment and unworthiness they believe they deserve due to the past.  Shifting our focus from the present and near future and moving it onto the past is not helpful.  This negative thinking creates guilt, self-loathing, and self-defeat.  The belief that bad things happen to them only for the reason that they somehow deserve it transfers the control a person has over their own future actions, thoughts and behaviors and moves the control onto a vague concept outside of the person leaving them powerless over their own fate.

The Bottomline

Balanced beliefs tend to be the most harmful.  Absolutes tend not to work absolutely all of the time in all situations.  What can be very helpful to one can be very harmful to another.  What can be very empowering in what situation can be very disempowering in another.  Too much of anything even if helpful in small doses tends do more harm than good.  It is important to having guiding principles yet what we live by must be re-evaluated from time to time as it may not always apply and may not bring us forward towards all of our goals in every situation.  There is not one approach that can be applied to every situation.   Life is not all or nothing.  Life is more complicated.  It takes reasoning, intuition and self-reflection to guide us through most situations we face.


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  • Glenn Stok profile image

    Glenn Stok 5 years ago from Long Island, NY

    Sue, Thanks for making that clear. When I re-read my comment I realized it was not clear. My reference to prior behavior was not meant to refer ONLY to one's own behavior, but rather to the behavior of anyone else. You said it better by saying not to dwell on things we cannot change. That's really what I meant when I referred to your statement... "our reactions truly have the greatest impact on our future." I'm glad you came back with a clearer way of stating what I was trying to say.

  • Sue B. profile image

    Sue B. 5 years ago

    I appreciate the thoughtful comment, Glenn. Thank you for posting a comment.

    It is really interesting to take a look at what we believe without question because it is what people always say-- but what does it really mean? and does it really apply to all things?

    Everything happens for a reason was one of those phrases that really gnawed at me as a saw it do more harm than good in some people who experienced a a significant trauma such as an almost-fatal car accident. It is as if it answered the question "why me?" for them and led them to fill in that there was a reason and it was their fault.

    It is important to take responsibility when it is our fault but it was truly harmful to blame ourselves for random negative events and coincidences.

    Your comment was interesting. You state " it's all a result of prior behavior" and I would disagree. A lot is a result of our prior behavior- but not all. I think it's important we concentrate on what is in our control and empower ourselves and attempt to not dwell on the things in our lives we cannot change or have any affect on.

  • Glenn Stok profile image

    Glenn Stok 5 years ago from Long Island, NY

    This was a great discussion of the irony of trying to make sense out of things. You wrote a wonderful analysis that give us something to think about.

    I truly believe that some things are simply coincidence and not everything has to happen for a reason.

    Good or bad. Or even bad things for an unknown good. It's all a result of prior behavior. That's what I think. And you completed my way of looking at it when you said, "our reactions truly have the greatest impact on our future."

    So as it goes, we (or someone else) bring about all things that happen, and our reactions (or reactions of others) directly affect our future. And as you said, it has nothing to do with a higher power.

    You got me going. All because you wrote a very thought-provoking Hub.

  • Lucky621 profile image

    Lucky621 6 years ago from The Sunshine State

    I am a firm believer that our thinking does affect our daily lives - if you keep positive thoughts then positive things happen in your life.