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I know. You’re coming for me. People LOVE everything happens for a reason for the peace it brings them in the midst of tough times. I’ve said it before myself. In the very tough times it can be breathed in like breath and pumped like the manual beat of a heart, each utterance a step closer to getting through this day, this thing, this unthinkable sorrow or pain.

I’m not trying to take your security blanket away from you or rob you from the comfort this belief may bring. But I think it’s important to consider other ways it might impact those around you, and maybe even the collective.

Because sometimes things are so tough and have wounded so deeply that everything happens for a reason starts to sound like shattered glass on marbled slabs and feel like a well-loved nursery rhyme that you learn years later speaks not of joyful, child-like things but of dark death and dim disaster instead.

In the bleakest of times, or if your spirituality or upbringing didn’t pave the path this way for you, everything happens for a reason can feel like an insinuation of blame and fault in a blameless situation or one in which fault no longer even matters.

It can feel like a heartless directive to just accept the thing and move on, to feel it less, to in fact ignore or detach from the very real and painful thing you’re grappling with, as if it weren’t actually ripping you to shreds inside, as if your pain and wounding were not welcome here so neither, it follows, are you.

Everything happens for a reason can be a well-meaning but unbearably heavy devaluing of an experience. It can sound like evidence of your otherness or undeservingness, conveying a truth that seems to belong to everyone except for whatever “people like you” means to you. It’s meant to comfort yet can often unintentionally wound, offend, and retraumatize.

What I believe in instead is that, as the Rolling Stones say, you get what you need. Which doesn’t mean that you need everything that you get, but that you will always be cared and accounted for, even in the toughest of times. This doesn’t make the tough times disappear, but it also doesn’t say that there’s always a greater reason for them. It allows for things to just happen sometimes, as I believe that they sometimes do. Shitty things to good people, good things to shitty people. Both good and shitty things, both for and not for reasons. You get what you need doesn’t mean that you deserve everything you get or that everything happens for a reason.

And even if everything DOES happen for a reason, there are too many lives and reasons intertwining in this world, that everything that happens to you can’t possibly be on purpose, for a purpose, at the same time that everything that happens to everyone else is also for purposes for them. That’s just too many people and purposes, too many competing variables for even the most omnipotent force you might follow and worship to orchestrate and maintain. Cut Spirit a break, would ya?

When everything happens for a reason isn’t true, we’re left in the space between all and nothing, the one we each navigate with our own complex blend of faith, inner logic, belief, skepticism, intuition, gut instinct, research, reason, and hope.

In that space, we can read each thing that happens for what it may or may not be offering us, for why it may or may not be FOR us, in some expected or unexpected way. We can take each thing as it comes and let it touch the parts of us that it will, and we can let those parts be challenged, explored or healed for whatever good that may ultimately come from it. But none of that is to say that we bring all the things on ourselves, that when tragedy befalls us it’s because we deserve it or have done or not done some thing or other to warrant or invite it. It also doesn’t mean that we haven’t. But the Universe and Spirit I believe in doesn’t punish or blame, and it doesn’t keep score. It just keeps giving us room to be better.

I believe in a vast interconnectedness of lives and living, where things DO happen for reasons beyond our understanding and purposes we can’t possibly comprehend. I believe that the more intentionally present we get to our experiences, the more exploration of self and spirit we do, and the more we open up to the possibility of support from a spiritual realm, then the more we become aware of those connections and reasons and start to embrace, if not always understand them. It’s just that I don’t believe that EVERYthing happens for  a reason, or that if it somehow does, that it does us much good to think of it that way.

While I appreciate and value the spirit support I’m blessed to receive, and I believe that we all have access to it in a myriad of ways, from an array of sources that may or may not all spring from one great Source, I also value my human agency and individual free will, and I believe that when we give it ALL up to God, Spirit or Source, we risk losing touch with the very real responsibilities we have to the people with whom we share collective space.

You may believe things entirely different from what I’ve laid out here today. That’s the beauty of this world, that we can both be good people and believe what we believe whether or not we believe the same things. If, however, you find yourself activated by the way I’ve questioned the power and capacity of your god and offended or angered on behalf of that god, then it might be worth considering why. I’ve found that the way we worship gods is often the way we lift up our leaders, and unwavering belief in the unchecked power of a god can lay dangerous framework for the same in the people we follow here on Earth, if left unexamined. True power can withstand being questioned and doesn’t deal in dogma, and I’m leery, to say the least, of any man or god who is threatened by heart-centered dissent. I ask you to consider the same.

And so, to bring things back to the beginning again, if it brings you real peace to believe that everything happens for a reason, by all means I wish for you all the strength and comfort it provides you. But I ask that you pause before applying it as a salve to other people’s wounds until you receive some sort of indication from them that that’s what it will be. You don’t have to understand where they’re coming from to respect that it’s true, and you can hold a belief for yourself without foisting it on others, in the name of holy healing.