“Everything Happens for the Best.” Really?


I’ve heard this saying more than once over the last week: “Everything happens for the best.” It’s an old teaching, rooted in religion and philosophy, that we use for reassurance during bleak times.

Does anyone actually believe it’s true? Does everything really happen for the best?

In Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth, which I’ve been reading with my twins, “everything happens for the best” is one of the “half-baked ideas” served at the Royal Banquet for dessert:

“We’re having a special treat today,” said the king as delicious smells of homemade pastry filled the banquet hall. “By royal command the pastry chefs have worked all night in the half bakery to make sure that— ”

“The half-bakery?” questioned Milo.

“Of course, the half bakery,” snapped the king. “Where do you think half-baked ideas come from?”


“They’re very tasty,” explained the Humbug, “but they don’t always agree with you. Here’s one that is very good.” He handed it to Milo and, through the icing and nuts, Milo saw that it said, “THE EARTH IS FLAT.”

“People swallowed that one for years,” commented the Spelling Bee, “but it’s not very popular these days— d-a-y-s.”  […]

Milo looked at the great assortment of cakes, which were being eaten almost as quickly as anyone could read them. […]

“I wouldn’t eat too many of those if I were you,” advised Tock. “They may look good, but you can get terribly sick of them.”

“Don’t worry,” Milo replied; “I’ll just wrap one up for later,” and he folded his napkin around “EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR THE BEST.”

Why would anyone think it’s helpful to say “everything happens for the best” to someone who’s grieving the results of our recent presidential election? In my experience, these platitude-bearing people aren’t trolls who supported or enabled Donald Trump. They seem to be liberal-minded people who think that sayings like “everything happens for the best” or “everything happens for a reason” are comforting phrases, even though they’re nothing more than half-baked ideas.

How can Trump’s presidency be “for the best” for Americans facing an increased risk of harassment as a result of Trump’s campaign rhetoric and proposed religious ban? How can it be “for the best” for people at risk of losing their health insurance or their right to express breastmilk in the workplace if the Affordable Care Act is hastily repealed? How can it be “for the best” for people who might lose their access to safe reproductive health care with the next appointment to the Supreme Court (making unsafe procedures the only option for many women)? How can it be “for the best” for LGBTQ+ people when the next Vice-President supports medically-unsound conversion therapy? How can it be “for the best” for anyone when an unscientific climate-change denier is in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency transition?

Ah, but “this too shall pass,” right? I’ve been hearing that one a lot lately too. Well, for those of us worried about the health and safety of our families — and the health and safety of the planet — four years is a long time to wait.

At best, we will survive this, as long as (1) we can trust Donald Trump with the nuclear codes, and (2) everyone who sees Trump for what he really is does whatever they can to keep our democratic institutions intact during his reign. To prevent Mr. Trump from turning all of his hateful, half-baked campaign promises into a reality, we have to:

*Organize around the issues that matter to us;

*Donate to organizations that will protect our rights and our environment;

*Call our lawmakers (email will not do);

*Protest when necessary; and

*VOTE in the mid-term elections to make sure Congress — particularly the Senate — will be a realistic check on the President’s power

Thankfully, though, Donald Trump — a frequent flip-flopper — has rarely meant anything he has said thus far. His pathological lying gives me reason to hope that the next four years *might* not be as bad as I fear — or, I suppose, with a man as unpredictable as Trump is, it could also be worse.  Either way, at this point, I’d rather not know what the future holds under the Trump Administration than know for certain that it holds what he has promised.

To use yet another half-baked cliché, ignorance is bliss, at least until I learn to cope with our new reality. It’s going to take a couple of weeks. In the meantime, I’m going to read.


  1. “Things always happen for the best” is definitely half-baked! I’m getting phone numbers of the white house and all my reps lined up and pasted to the fridge, or better yet, I think I will put them in my phone contacts! Hopefully I don’t have to use them a lot but I am prepared to. I am also preparing myself to participate in demonstrations, something I haven’t done much of before. I am determined not to be silent/silenced.

    I was heartened by a Washington Post article I read today about Schumer and senate democrats and how they are going to take Trump at his word on certain promises and start working to craft legislation for jobs and infrastructure projects etc. I hope they stick to it. Things could get really interesting!

    1. I also hope that the Democrats will work with Trump to the extent they can without compromising civil rights/equality. Trump really isn’t a Republican. He’s his own party. He worries me terribly (and Pence worries me even more).

      1. Oh yes agreed! Trump is worrying because he is so unpredictable and Pence because he is such a religious conservative. Like you I am hoping the Democrats don’t cave in on civil rights, that would truly be disastrous.

  2. Yes to all of this. I can’t stand “everything happens for the best” or “for a reason,” and don’t even get me started on “God has a plan.” I share your frustration and your determination, and love the list of ideas. If there’s a silver lining AT ALL here, it will be if millions of Americans are mobilized to start making the world a better place. (So far, I’ve donated to the Human Rights Campaign and several environmental organizations, volunteered for my local diaper bank, joined a GOTV strategy group for 2018 and taken on a new pro bono case. Plenty more to do…)

    1. Keep it up, Jaclyn! We’re in this together. I’ve been wondering how many people didn’t vote–or voted for a third party in states they expected to go for Clinton (like PA)–because the polls strongly suggested Clinton was going to win. I hope those people are more energized and engaged now. Whatever happens, we cannot normalize Trumpism.

  3. I agree that there is solace in the fact that one can’t trust anything that trump says. The real danger is pence, as you mention. I really hope that there are enough energized people out here to challenge each attempt at passing unconstitutional laws.

    1. Yes, Pence is terrifying. I wonder if more people would’ve voted if the polls hadn’t suggested Clinton was going to win. I hope those people will be more engaged now.

  4. *applauds* Beautifully said. I am part of the LGBT+ community, and no one–not a single person–is saying “It’s all for the best.” We know very well it is not, especially with Pence as VP. We’re all terrified, and not just for us. Hard-fought freedoms for all minorities might very well be under fire, and four years is a long, long time, no matter what happens.

    Thanks for writing this particular blog. I’m sharing it over on Facebook.

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