Friday, July 13, 2018

Insight: Everything happens by Lorraine Glowczak

"Hello everyone,” the email began. “I won’t be able to make it to tonight’s meeting. We received word from my brother that today might be the day and I want to spend time with my family.”

The email, sent to a board of directors of which I am a member, was referring to the individual’s 24-year-old nephew who is in the process of taking his last breaths. He was diagnosed with brain cancer six months ago.

The news comes on the cusp of my reading the book, “Everything Happens for a Reason – and Other Lies I’ve Loved” by Kate Bowler. Bowler is a cancer survivor and an Assistant Professor of Duke Divinity School.

Although I am one to hop on the think-positive-train wholeheartedly, I have always hesitated when “everything happens for a reason” is uttered. I believe, without a doubt, we have some control over what happens in our lives and we most likely have control over our responses. But is it safe to say that EVERYTHING happens for a reason?

I think it is possible that some things just happen and when they are unfair, confusing and painful we tend to apply human reason to make sense of it all. This, in and of itself, really bears no issue. 

If one believes that absolutely everything happens for a reason, fair enough. But it can become an issue, when one is certain of a specific viewpoint. It has the tendency to create judgment and make us overly certain of our personal truths which seem to give us the freedom to apply the “reason” philosophy on everyone - in every situation.

In the midst of painful experiences, such as cancer and other unbearables, this certainty can cause greater harm, pain and damage to those who are already suffering.

Bowler shares some of her thoughts on how people responded to her cancer. “My [email] inbox is full of strangers giving reasons. People offer them like wildflowers picked along the way…they want me to know, without a doubt, that there is hidden logic to this seeming chaos. (p. 112).

Bowler states the hardest lessons come from the “solutions people” who tell her that attitude is everything and it determines one’s destiny. “I am immediately worn out by the tyranny of prescriptive joy,” she said.

I’m not offering what each person should do or believe. I can’t. Because no one owns the copyright on truth. What I’m suggesting is that perhaps we should not make assumptions in certain circumstances where the lines of reason are fuzzy. Especially for those already facing horrendous situations. What good is it to be right in such instances if it only wears down an already weary and broken person?

In terms of whether there is a reason for everything or not is not as important as the awareness that what we say, can and does have a great impact on others.

So, let’s just agree that either everything happens for a reason or everything happens for a reason and enjoy our perceptions while being mindful of others.

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