Stoics Believe that Everything that Happens is Perfect

The stoic tradition holds that everything that happens is perfect. They see it that way because they believe in a universal order that leaves very little room for free will. Everything that happens is a revelation.
Stoics Believe that Everything that Happens is Perfect

Last update: 25 November, 2020

Many Stoics believe that a universal order determines everything that occurs. In other words, everything that happens is meant to happen and is perfect in one way or another. Everything that has to happen, will happen. Many well-known great thinkers subscribed to the stoic philosophy, including Seneca.

The perfection these philosophers referred to isn’t the absence of mistakes, defects, or challenges. Instead, it’s the idea that everything fits together and everything has its place. Thus, there’s an internal logic to what often seem like random events.

“My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it- all idealism is mendaciousness in the face of what is necessary- but love it.”

-Friedrich Nietzsche-

The Stoics agreed with Eastern philosophers and many different religions on this point. Everything that happens is perfect because it’s destiny. It isn’t necessarily a prewritten fate, but it’s determined by an infinite number of circumstances that come together to shape what happens around you.

A woman at a dock thinking about what stoics believe.

Everything that happens is perfect

An entire set of circumstances determines your destiny from the moment you’re born. In fact, you don’t choose to be born nor do you choose your genetic makeup or your sex. All of those factors set you on a certain path from the get-go.

You can add to that the fact that you don’t choose your parents, your nationality, your social class, your extended family, or your immediate surroundings. Nor do you have any control over the historic context in which you’re born into. All of these hugely important elements of your life and your personality are out of your hands.

As if all that weren’t enough, your fate is also largely determined by where you are in the birth order and the physical and emotional state your parents were in when you came into the world, among other factors. Although it may feel like you shape your own personality, many random factors condition your upbringing. Stoics believe that all of this is perfect because the result is your unique life.

Acceptance

Obviously, many of the early events in your life that you could call “fate” are full of contradictions, challenges, and problems. However, each event has particularities that set you on a specific path that you have to follow. Everything that occurs after that is perfect because it develops the essence of who you are.

The mistake is assuming that there are universal paradigms or models for what it means to be human. There’s no “ideal” time to be born, no perfect parents, no circumstances that are immune to contradictions. If you cling to those unrealistic ideas, it’ll lead you to absurd nonconformity.

It’s absurd because there’s no use in rebelling and striving for the impossible. You can gripe and moan all you’d like, but you won’t change anything. In fact, the better you get at accepting your unique and exclusive reality, the less you’ll suffer. Otherwise, you’re like a carnation complaining about not being a rose. Silly and pointless.

Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation

Neither Seneca nor other Stoic philosophers believed that accepting your fate means resigning yourself to it or feeling bitter about your lot. That kind of attitude would only lead to helplessness. Instead, they advocate for an open-minded attitude. You should greet whatever happens with open arms because it’s exactly what’s supposed to happen. They encourage us to celebrate the mystery that makes each person unique in the world.

Within the Stoic philosophy, however, there’s some room for free will. It’s small, but it exists. It shows up in your life as the possibility of choosing one path or another or one action or another at different points in your life.

Stoics believe that accepting the universal order of things is possible when you stop complaining about the consequences of your actions. Instead, you have to approach them as a revelation. A sign that everything that happens is perfect.

Who you are and what you do with your life isn’t laudable if you only do the “right” thing. Everything has an intrinsic value because it’s the manifestation of a predesigned plan. Your job is to try to understand it, let it run its course, and gratefully accept what fate brings you.

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  • Boeri, M. D. (2007). Necesidad, lo que depende de nosotros y posibilidades alternativas en los estoicos: Réplica a Ricardo Salles. Crítica (México, DF), 39(115), 97-111.