Travel To Grow

Understanding The World Through Travel

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Dec '09

Does Everything Happen for a Reason?

“It happened for a reason”

Quite often when something negative happens someone will try to comfort us with the phrase “It happened for a reason.” This is quite a loaded phrase implying that whatever negative thing just happened is okay because eventually somewhere along the way the reason for the thing happening will become clear and we will be better off in some way because of it.

Is this true though? Do certain things happen based on a kind of beneficial fate for reasons unknown to us? I’ve discussed this with family and other travelers and now my belief about whether things happen for a reason is clear to me.

What about the bad stuff?

Initially my objection to this idea was about the really bad things. Sure I could see that if someone lost their job they might realize how much they hated it then get a job they like much better in another field… the initial losing of the job could be seen as ‘for a reason’… but what about the really bad things, the ones that don’t have a happy ending. What about when someone looses a loved one, becomes an alcoholic, looses their job, gets abandoned by their friends, becomes homeless and eventually dies. How could that have been for a reason?

Clearly this ‘beneficial reason‘ for things happening is not something automatic that will make itself clear in the future or the homeless man would have become homeless for a reason and found some sort of future lesson or happiness from it.

I also couldn’t accept that this was just the homeless mans fate. That it was all for a reason and beyond his control. That it was ‘his purpose’ to come here and go through this suffering until this death. There was something missing.

We are not ruled by fate

If you don’t get the job you wanted because you didn’t prepare well enough for the interview can you simply say? “Oh well it happened for a reason.”

If you don’t follow your dreams, you stick with a job you hate, let your marriage fall to shambles and wake up every day hating your life did all of that happen for some divine reason? Can you say it was out of your control?

In life actions have consequences, and lack of action also has consequences. It would be foolish just to declare everything that happens in your life ‘for a reason’ when it was within your control. If you could have changed the outcome of something then you can’t blame the result on fate.

I do however believe that our lives may be guided by fate with regards to the things that are completely out of our control. I believe in life there are certain lessons we are guided to learn, and certain experiences we are guided to have. I’ve seen before the course of people’s lives changed by a long string of rare coincidences that defy the odds.

My decision to create this website for instance came out of 5 or 6 weird coincidences involving near perfect timing. If any of the coincidences had of not happened I would be working on other things and this website would have never existed. I believe that since these things had such small odds of happening naturally that perhaps they really did happen for a reason to guide my life on the path it was supposed to go.

But what about all the things that are within our control, apart from the crazy acts of fate. The quote is “everything happens for a reason” so what about everything else?

We decide the reason

I now believe that everything does happen for a beneficial reason, but the secret is to find the meaning of the events ourselves.

I believe when bad things happen, the reason is to teach us something valuable.

When we fail in one place of our lives the reason is to learn from it and use the knowledge to achieve even greater success in another.

When something is taken from us the reason is to inspire us to find something better.

When we are beaten down it’s to show us how to persevere to become stronger than we once were.

I think the world will throw lessons at people in the form of hardships or loss, and it will keep throwing the lessons at them until they find the reason for why it is happening and then learn and grow from the experience. Once the lesson is learned the way is opened up and the hardships in that area of your life disappear.

Finding reasons in events is a way for us to take something good out of something bad. If we return to the example of the homeless man, the reason he could have found for the loss of his loved one could have been to set his life on a new path of helping others. Perhaps it could have inspired him to become a grief councilor for children who have lost their loved ones. This could have later led him to find a love in someone else greater than he had ever imagined. However without taking the beneficial reason out of the event he self destructed through alcoholism.

Final words

Everything does happen for a reason, but the reason comes from us. Some of our life which is outside our control may be guided by a kind of fate, but the reasons we derive out of everything that happens is completely within our control. Find positive reasons for everything good or bad that happens in your life, and within every hardship will be the seed of something wonderful.

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  • danstelter

    Really a very nice article and blog you have here! I think that everything does happen for a reason, but the reason isn't always subjective, although it often is. I agree that bad things happen so that we can learn and grow. But sometimes, like the Holocaust, a bunch of really nasty crap happens and people are destroyed for no good reason. Individually, I think that individuals affected by that would have a hard time finding a reason for those events. I would too, and I would be open to hearing your response as to why just “crap happens” sometimes. Great post!

  • Devin Licastro

    Hey Dan, glad you liked the article.
    You make a really good point, humanity does have a dark past with countless wars and genocides. We've caused a lot of nasty crap to happen to each other. I think as a species were still pretty young and we've done a lot of stupid things. I do however think we are making slow but steady progress over the years… its hard to see it in our short lifetimes but we are as a whole slowly becoming more civilized. I do believe in the future we will eventually get passed all this violence and destruction and things like the holocaust will be a distant memory of how the world used to be. In order to reach this place though I think we have to look at these horrible things and take reasons and lessons and grow as a species from them. I think when something happens that effects an individual they should strive to take individual reasons from it, but when something happens that affects humanity at large, humanity as a whole needs to take reasons and lessons out of it. Perhaps an event like the holocaust has caused all of humanity to learn and grow from it.

  • danstelter

    When you say “humanity as a whole needs to take lessons from it” I think you're exactly right. The problem is we are forgetful as a whole and history repeats itself. On the individual level, people seem enlightened enough that they can learn lessons and stop repeating hisotry, but as a whole, the story is much different. Great article though!

  • danstelter

    Yeah, it seems that some people will grow and learn, while other fall and stay stuck. It seems that humanity as a whole, progresses much slower than many individuals. After all, they say history repeats itself, which it does. Hopefully, people can learn and not repeat the mistakes of the past

  • danstelter

    Yeah, it seems that some people will grow and learn, while other fall and stay stuck. It seems that humanity as a whole, progresses much slower than many individuals. After all, they say history repeats itself, which it does. Hopefully, people can learn and not repeat the mistakes of the past

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