It never fails. Something terrible happens, and some well-meaning person offers up one of the following platitudes:

It will work out how it needs to.

Everything happens for a reason.

If it happened, it’s meant to be.

We’ve all heard different variations of those platitudes so often uttered in the wake of some awful occurrence. The implication being some grand scheme is afoot, and everything is going according to that plan.

There was a time I believed everything happened for a reason. There was a time when bad things happened some good would occur to offset it. For example, I was held hostage in a marriage I didn’t want with threats of suicide, but two beautiful children were borne from it. I rationalized that as happening for a reason. A damned good reason.

But then the counterbalance disappeared. Negative events no longer had an equal and opposite event. And so I became introspective. I analyzed this platitude I’d had faith in for so long.

Is there a reason for everything? Is everything that happens meant to be? Is there some cosmic entity orchestrating my life? I no longer thought so. I decided to look beyond my own circumstances, and these were my thoughts:

  • What possible reason could there be for child abuse?
  • What possible reason could there be for sexual assault?
  • Is anyone truly meant to live in poverty?
  • How exactly would anything work out for someone who was murdered?
  • What possible reason could there be for bigotry? Or hatred of any kind?

It’s hardly an exhaustive list, but I could think of no possible justification for any of those circumstances. Those are hideous things that happen to people that no amount of goodness can heal or offset. Those are things that leave both physical and emotional scars. Scars a person will carry a lifetime. Scars that will be a constant reminder of humanity’s dark side. Scars that will ever keep them on the defensive. Scars that build walls to keep others out.

Then my mind wandered to naturally-occurring traumas.

  • How will things work out for a child with leukemia?
  • Is a tornado sweeping through a city killing people really meant to be?
  • What reason could there be for a child born with a disease or a physical deformity?

Ultimately, there’s no reason for anyone to ever endure such a life of trauma, so I stopped believing in that farce. There’s no reason for anything. Nothing is meant to be. Nothing will work out how it needs to because there is no divine force pulling the strings in this puppet play.

For good or ill, shit just happens. Good things happen to good people. Bad things happen to bad people. Good things happen to bad people. Bad things happen to good people. There’s no rhyme, no reason, to any of it. Nothing is ordained. We can only play the hand we’re dealt.

Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her: but once they are in hand, he or she must alone decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.