Note: This piece was originally written for my weekly newsletter. You can sign up for it right here.
“Everything happens for a reason.”
You’ve probably heard the phrase a gazillion times. I know I did. I repeatedly told myself that exact line whenever an ex of mine would dump me.
The same goes for my friends and family; they also kept parroting the phase until it was all I could think about. In fact, In retrospect, all of them operated on that sole phrase whenever they faced adversity, calamity, or any other challenge life brought to the doorstep.
Well, enough is enough. The whole “Everything happens for a reason” thing pisses me off. I don’t buy into it. I never did! I think the entire thing is just a coping mechanism. Nothing happens for a fucking reason.
Sometimes, terrible things just happen. There’s no logical reason behind why they happened; they just did.
So how could someone look at you at your personal rock bottom, barely holding up your shattered-and-gushing-with-blood heart, and utter this empty phrase to you?
Well, there are three reasons why. First, because it reflects an underlying religious or spiritual belief. Second, because they want to oversimplify and rationalize a complex situation. Third, because they want to avoid telling you a harsh truth.
Let’s unpack these ideas further.
1. EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON (BECAUSE THERE’S A HIGHER POWER)
Oh, you broke up with your partner? Relax, God/The Universe/Flying Spaghetti Monster has a plan. Everything happens for a reason. Just have faith.
You see this idea thrown around most, if not all, religious and spiritual circles. In fact, “Everything happens for a reason” became somewhat of a go-to standard for the people in those communities.
And since the idea is based on faith, you can’t really disprove it, which by itself can cause frustrations. Think: when people comfort you while you’re grieving over your ex, but you don’t believe in the same things they believe in and comfort you with.
At its core, believing in some higher power, believing that life makes sense, believing that whoever or whatever has a grand plan for you is nothing more but a coping mechanism — it makes your situation more manageable and easier to grasp.
Let me put it this way. Planting your hope on an unquestionable, abstract, and divine concept helps you get out of bed every morning and participate in life. This by itself is good. However, the idea also carries a dark underbelly.
Until you hide under the belief that everything happens for a reason, the odds of figuring out why your relationship hasn’t worked out — and therefore, avoiding a future breakup — are relatively minuscule.
2. EVERYTHING MUST HAPPEN FOR A REASON (BECAUSE I CAN’T ADMIT MY MISTAKE)
Maybe we broke up because I cheated on them? Maybe we broke up because I hardly paid any attention to them? Maybe we broke up because I was needy, possessive, and controlling? Nah, impossible. Actually… it’s not even important! Everything happens for a reason, anyways. I’ll just find someone else in due time.
Don’t be this person. Don’t hide behind the delusion of “everything happens for a reason” to avoid pondering on the idea that you may also be responsible for your failed relationship.
Don’t even try.
Admit that you may have messed up. Admit that the breakup may be just as much your fault as it is your exes fault. Admit that there may be a chance to do things differently and avoid the whole shit-show.
When you’re done admitting your faults, accept all of them. Take radical responsibility for your fuckups, and then finally, forgive yourself (and your ex, too, while you’re at it).
We all make mistakes in life. It’s fine. The important thing is to not delude ourselves into thinking we haven’t made any. This will only limit the capacity of how much we can learn and grow in spite of those mistakes, in spite of our pain.
Ultimately, everything doesn’t happen for a reason, but everyone makes mistakes. Claim yours and move on.
3. THERE MUST BE MEANING IN EVERYTHING
My ex was divinely orchestrated for me, intended to come into my life and break my heart so I could learn a valuable lesson(s) that will better my future relationships. Thank you, oh great space-manatee!
This is just one example of the philosophical theatrics we play with ourselves. We try to make sense of our greatest and most horrid moments — we try to make sense of life.
We play all sorts of mental gymnastics with ourselves until we’re sure that event A leads to event B, and event B led to event C.
But that’s not reality. It’s usually like event A, leads to event G, which then leads to event K, loops five times, comes back to G, then goes to B, and on and on it goes.
Basically, the law of cause and effect can go fuck itself. Forget about cause-and-effect altogether. Usually, the two have nothing in common.
Life is inherently random, chaotic, and absurd. You can’t make sense of it — you can’t make sense of the nonsensical. So let it go.
Sometimes honest and innocent people get dumped. Sometimes honest and innocent people get betrayed. Sometimes honest and innocent people develop a depression-cancer combo, get miserable and then shoot themselves in the skull while covered in cocaine and reeking of cheap wine.
This is a brutal reality to face. But it is the world we live in.
HOW TO COPE WITH THE UNCOMFORTABLE REALITY
The key to dealing with everything, the good or bad, confusing or clear, abnormal or normal, is to make the best possible choice we can with our available options. Then surrender to the outcome, whatever it may be, without any expectations.
When we try to control everything, all we’re really doing is suppressing the insecure parts of ourselves that are afraid of how out of control life is.
So again, don’t try to control the uncontrollable; Just let go. The more you’ll try and control things, especially external things, the more you’ll struggle. The only thing you can really control is how you react to the things around you and the experiences you face. But hell, even that’s debatable.
Here’s one last takeaway (that you’ve probably seen coming). You didn’t meet or break up with your ex for some extraordinary, special, and celestially meaningful reason. It was all a result of sheer randomness.
However, you do get to attribute a unique meaning to the whole experience — this is an inherent ability all humans possess. Without it, many would just turn into hopeless nihilists. So, what are you waiting for? Attribute a positive, uplifting, and inspiring (yet still potentially painful) meaning to your failed relationship, to your current challenges, to your heartbreak.
And above all, be grateful for all that has happened. Many people will never know what love is. But you know. You’ve felt it! At least, to some degree. That’s something worth being grateful for.