“Meant to be” is one of the most popular phrases used to describe relationships, religions, careers, and life. But what do we really mean when we say this? (I’m going to now take out religion from my discussion because that’s a whole different category.) Do we really believe anything is meant to be or is not meant to be? Or are we just using it because everyone uses it understands it a certain way?
I ask these questions because this phrase bothers me. I discussed about the honeymoon phase in an earlier post. “Meant to be” is another phrase that I think is misleading.
When we think that certain things are ‘meant to be’ we are deliberately putting ourselves to become a passive actor instead of an active actor. At first glance this phrase sounds flattering to hear because it sounds as if one is proclaiming his or her passion for someone or something by saying that ‘there was no other way I could have been with someone else’ or ‘have done another career.’ But was it really no other way for him or her to be with that person or with that career? Ehhh. Probably not. In reality, he or she probably choose to be with this person because he or she wanted to be with this person. He or she choose that career path because he or she wanted to do it. He or she took that job because he or she wanted it. There are many variables such as luck and timing that plays into these decision process but “want” is still the more appropriate word choice than “meant to be.”
Understanding the difference of us choosing decisions because we ‘wanted it’ instead of ‘it was meant to be’ is critical because it explains why we often get so disappointed when great things fall apart. We tend to build up a lot of expectation when we first think something is ‘meant to be’ because we believed, and got used to hearing, that something this good must be ‘meat to be’ part of our life. That’s probably why when things fall apart, the fall feels like an unstoppable domino effect. In fact, my quick search in Google showed that we use ‘not meant to be’ more often than ‘meant to be.’ Within 49 seconds there were 665,000,000 results that had the phrase “meant to be.” It took 44 seconds for Google to find at least 682,000,000 results that had the phrase “not meant to be.” As few friends wisely pointed out, the ‘not meant to be’ is a nice convenience phase. We comfort ourselves by believing and saying that this bad outcome was ‘something out of our control.’ Thus, instead of worrying, we should let it go and move on. Again, that confirms my earlier thoughts. It is not that it was ‘not meant to be,’ you choose not to be with this person or choose not to do this career because of certain reasons. You decided. While the phrase sounds powerful in songs, in reality you are simply putting yourself in temporary denial. It’s not that you didn’t have a choice. You did choose, and that is great!
In addition, another detail to note is that we use ‘meant to be’ with more certainty when we know the outcome. For instance, when couples lived happily for a long time they tend to feel more comfortable saying that they were meant to be together because they already lived 60 plus years together. Likewise, experts who build their expertise in a certain field will say there was no other way they could have done something else after making a substantial career advancement. When we hear them say that they were meant to be, it sounds lovely. Yet, the key is to remember that this is not probably what they all felt when they first encountered the other person or that job 2o or 60 years ago. But throughout those years, they worked hard to grow into that job and into that relationship. They did it because they wanted to be there. In retrospect, they describe and come to believe that it was ‘meant to be.’
No one knows what ending one will see until they live through it. No one will know what choices will led them to the happy ending they have imaged until they keep trying to move forward. Life changes the moment we thought we decided what we thought about something, so why let “faith” choose what you are meant to do or not meant to do? Even if you say you don’t believe in something, by saying it we are unconsciously letting ourselves become a passive actor. It’s time to abandon misleading social media’s concept. Start using ‘want’ instead of ‘meant.’ Word choice matters.
P.S. If you are still thinking that “I was meant to be with you” is the best phrase to tell your lover, think twice. You are with her or him because you want to be. That’s powerful and wonderful. If you mean it, tell him or her. They’ll beam right back at you.
Copyright © 2014. Monica H. Kang, All Rights Reserved.