Does Everything Happen For A Reason?

My mother would answer “Yes.” It was her standard response when anything…usually bad…happened. “Well, everything happens for a reason.” This cheery announcement would signal that no more whining would be tolerated, and we would henceforth use our energies in the search for the meaning of the latest catastrophe.

Of course, we could always find a reason…or several of them…that showed us that what we thought was a dark cloud had a bright, shiny silver lining. I’m not sure if Mom really believed that everything happens for a reason or not. She was certainly a woman of faith, and believed that God’s hand guided all things. When this view was challenged by her precocious son’s question, “Why would God allow so much suffering?”, it was quickly dismissed with “We can’t know His mind…but he has his reasons.”

With hindsight, I suspect the more likely motive in the search for the bright side of any negative event was primarily to avoid conflict. Friction and bad feelings were treated like a poisonous snake in our house, flung out the nearest window with all speed, or killed with a shovel. Inner conflict was okay, apparently. Just don’t bring it out into the open.

Hence her “everything happens for a reason” response. “This is really a good thing, kids. No need to have any negative feelings of any kind.” In other words, stop complaining about the snake and hand me the shovel.

As for me, I don’t know if everything happens for a reason, or not. Certainly, everything has a cause, and therefore a reason for happening. But the implication is always that  everything happens for a GOOD reason, summed up in the old bromide, “’Tis an ill wind that blows no good.”

Is it such a bad thing to look for the good? Not in my view, as long as it’s not a palliative to simply avoid pain and conflict. So, maybe a better phrase is, “Everything happens. What are the positives that we take to move forward?”


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