People Do Not Come into Your Life for a Reason

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Lately, I’ve had a tendency to mull popular tropes. A few months back, I looked at the “everything happens for a reason” adage. Recently, the notion that “people come into our lives for a reason” stuck in my craw.


How self-centered does a person need to be to think that other human existences—rich, vibrant, tragic, joyful, and often all of the above combined over the span of decades—have come into his existence to play bit parts in his biopic?

After all, extras in screenplays don’t have purposes of their own. Their lives don’t divert course to come into the protagonist’s world. Screenwriters only outline bit players enough to move forward the main character’s plot—then they can let them fall off the cast list entirely.

Yet wait: A real life doesn’t take the form of a neat narrative with a main character and extras superfluous other than their specific roles in the protagonist’s plot.

Lives have far messier trajectories than popular plotlines. We like clean, neat narratives because they help us organize our crazy world. We want our lives to make sense in the same way that the tale of an adventurer—Odysseus or Hercules, say—makes sense. Never mind that these men only ever existed in fiction. Never mind that the process of reducing even a real person’s life to a clean narrative fictionalizes it.

Sure, I’ve taken the meaning of the statement to the extreme. In many cases, people use it to imply they’ve learned something from an encounter. Good. After all, self-analysis will always prove more worthwhile than shrugging off negative incidents with the pat “everything happens for a reason” explanation.

However, the notion that people enter your life for the primary purpose of affecting you in some way—which implies that they have no further value to your story and, quite frankly, that you could care less about their journeys—has an extreme bent, if you deeply consider it. Whether someone has crossed your path for a moment, a few months, or years, they have their own agency and value as human beings completely separate from your life.

We have truly entered an entirely new level of “me” era if we can unthinkingly imply that another human’s life has diverted course simply to serve a purpose in our own—or that they have no reason for existence other than to provide us personalized life lessons.

What do you think?