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  • Writer's pictureJeff Johnston

Things Happen For A Reason... Right?

*This blog may contain comments or opinions that are sensitive and potential triggers for some. These are my thoughts and opinions only.*

Is there a reason our oldest son, Seth, on October 4th, 2016 at the age of 23, would decide heroin laced with fentanyl would be a good idea to pump into his young veins? Is there a reason he left us so young, alone, and afraid in a seedy hotel room, never even making it into his warm bed? There has to be a reason, right? Without a reason than things simply just happen, potentially for nothing. What a cruel waste of life, huh? This can’t possibly be the way things work, right? Things do happen, the curious and honest question is why? Before you form a response and excitedly proclaim you have the answers for me just take a moment and finish reading, I have faith you’ll understand.

Death, or trauma for that matter, understandably, is such a highly sensitive issue. It seems as though by a certain age we have formed a belief system or at least a personal strategy in how to deal with death and trauma when it meets us head-on. A senseless, random death is so cruel, unfair, and unjust. I have struggled with this concept well before Seth died. A plane crash killing innocent people, a baby drowning in a pool, a mass shooting at a high school, a 13-year-old kidnapped and killed, or an individual struck down with cancer. What possible, honest reason would be for these things to happen? Accepting “things happen for a reason” as a final answer felt as if I was giving up, a flaw that I was willing to invent an answer in my mind for something I truly believed I did not understand. Please understand that I do not dispute or doubt the tremendous utility of this phrase to help many of us with solace and healing. If it works for you then by all means continue with its use. However, I have a hard time believing that things actually do happen for a reason and oddly enough I am at peace with this, yet I remain actively searching for further clarity, out of curiosity if anything else.

It’s hard to articulate but I feel as though I have an inner “truth beacon” inside of me, a GPS device trying to tell me where to go and how to get there. I am quite certain many of you do as well. If I just keep searching I would eventually find answers. Realistically it’s more likely the fact that I simply don’t like being told what to believe. A natural skeptic perhaps. I was becoming a person never satisfied with the answers provided to me by others. “Things happen for a reason” seemed complete BS to me, mildly comforting nonetheless but still BS.

Often this phrase is overheard at a funeral or during a sporting event, typically after something good or bad happens. It’s a phrase used to comfort us as we navigate through events in our own lives, apparently specifically directed our way with intention from somewhere or someone. If things really do happen for a “reason,” what could that reason be? To teach us something, to punish us, or would it be to enlighten us or better yet help us explain something seemingly unexplainable or unbearable? Where would this “reason” most likely come from? God(s), nature, random luck, the universe? I certainly will not claim I know yet I don’t subscribe to the idea that there necessarily needs to be a reason behind most events when they occur to us. Rather I think of this as more of our human desire for us to WANT a reason. We truly want to believe, it's how humans are wired. Settling for not knowing isn’t in our DNA and of course, this isn’t a bad thing.

The brutal reality and inevitably of our mortality and often the “timing” of death itself has become an event that requires us to have an answer. I don’t have to remind anyone reading this that no mortal human has yet found a way to live forever, or even a few hundred years. If so, I guess we wouldn’t be mortal would we? Death never provides an answer, yet we demand one. It is the ultimate unknown, the ultimate test of closure. Humans for millennia have struggled with this event that occurs every few seconds throughout the world. We all will die however, unfortunately, not always in the “right” order. Yet, when death comes a knocking it seems we are very quick to have some type of explanation (other than the fact we all will simply die.) “Reason” is the meaning we give to an event that happens to us in our life.

“Everything happens for a reason” provides us:

  • Hope

  • Closure

  • The Ability to Heal Pain

  • Self-Reflection

  • Purpose in Life

  • The Motivation to Move On

  • Life Lessons

As undeniably awesome, powerful, and beneficial all these observations are, they don’t necessarily mean we are closer to the truth. Belief in something, no matter how strong the personal conviction, doesn’t mean it’s true. Why does the truth even matter in this and in most scenarios? Well, It may not for you but it certainly does for me. Simply stated, a belief is what I FEEL is true, not necessarily the truth itself. A “stoic-wise” person does not hold many beliefs. Some may feel this is a curse or an empty way to live rather than a healthy way to think. I don’t know for sure as I am still learning.

In an honest search for knowledge and truth, one should look to eliminate or better yet “evolve” beliefs, which are generally looked at as limitations by the Stoics. Beliefs may very well provide structure in your life, a foundation, yet they most certainly set a ceiling for you in the desire to be open-minded and curious to seek answers. Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus are the more famous Stoics. Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, and other influential greek philosophers helped contribute to this ideology over time. Compared to the earth’s age and the fact I am only 54 years old how the hell could I know the answers to anything yet, if ever? How arrogant I could allow myself to become if I closed my mind!

Do things actually happen for a “reason” or do things “just happen” and we (humans) affix meaning and purpose to these random events? Does it really matter the answer if the belief itself creates happiness and peace for you? Probably not, possibly so. However, seeking knowledge and truth solely on a foundation of faith and belief seems potentially fragile and unstable to me. The keyword is “solely.” I have no doubt many of you feel completely the opposite, THAT'S OK! Telling people what they want to hear only to confirm their own biases is a highly profitable business model and there already exists a huge market for this and always will. It’s just not for me at this point in my life and I am fairly certain I am not alone in this analysis of self.

The purpose of this blog is to stimulate thought, be a little provocative, and to challenge what you have been taught or have experienced personally. That’s how we grow. I honestly and humbly confess that I don't know the truth, how could anyone be so sure they actually do? The truth may be harder to find in this manner but when found should provide you with a solid, unwavering heightened sense of confidence as you look for ways to help with personal trauma, anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and other mental health issues. It’s very evident we need more options to deal with these emotions and feelings.150,000 Americans die each year to alcoholism, suicide, and overdose, an all-time high. We are hurting and we want clear answers; it would seem we need them as well.

Is there a reason I started to write a blog? Is there a reason you haven’t stopped reading this by now? I submit to you that we shouldn’t hopelessly wait for a reason or worse yet be told by someone else what that reason should be for our unique situation. The reasons are already here, inside all of us. If you can’t find one CREATE it. Build it up from the inside. Seek the truth for yourself, convert your own faith and belief system into your own personal journey for truth. This way of thinking, growing, and becoming aware has helped me immensely to deal with Seth’s death and has given me a reason to keep looking for answers...I will never stop searching...Is there a reason Seth died? I honestly don’t know; however, if there isn’t, then it’s my life’s work to make sure one is constructed from within, not for Seth but for me. I am, for this moment still alive, isn’t that reason enough?

Live Undeterred!

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