Our Fate and Destiny
Much has been written about fate and destiny. Those that I read have varied opinions on whether or not those two concepts are one and the same with some claiming they can be interchangeably used and some arguing that one should not be mistaken for the other.
There are assertions that fate and destiny both refer to what the future holds for us. However, that future, when viewed using the lens of fate, is negative and is positive when seen in the perspective of destiny.
The common thing that the literature I explored on the subjects clearly articulated is that they both allude to the future of a person but fate does so negatively and destiny positively.
Fate is negative because it is a belief that everything that happens to us in the future have already been set in stone. We can not change our fate no matter how a hard we try. Conversely, destiny is positive because it considers the future something that is yet to happen, a story – our story – yet to be written.
Fate and destiny are both considered as predetermined course of events. However, fate is viewed as inevitable which is controlled by an unseen force while destiny is likened to a clay in the hands of a potter – it can be shaped as desired.
Each of us can decide whether to accept that the life we live is tied to threads controlled by the puppeteer called fate or it is a book filled with empty pages and we’re holding the pen and have the chance to write our own stories. We can decide whether we live the fate (which others think are) assigned to us or we create our own destiny.
The danger with subscribing to the idea that events in our lives are determined by the hand that fate dealt to us is it leads to a passive life. Fatalism reduces a person to merely a driftwood on the waves. Believing that success and failure are preordained, people may not be motivated to give their best shot in any endeavor or be afraid to take risks in any way. They would simply wait for their future to unfold. They believe that fate would bring them to where they should be anyway and would make them what they are meant to be. For them there is not much (or nothing) that they could do but wait until their wheel of fortune grinds to a halt pointing at the jackpot, not at the bankrupt.
But innate in us is the capability to chart our own destiny. Living our fate or shaping our own future is a matter of choice. Instead of waiting passively for the future we can lay out a plan to ensure that it unfolds the way we want.
Remember what Albert Camus said – “Life is the sum of all our choices.” “Our life,” as Myles Munroe puts it, “ is the sum total of all the decisions we make everyday.” It is then incumbent upon us to make the right choices all the time. And the first decision we need to make is whether we view ourselves as the master of our fate or its slave.
The fatalistic attitude of people stems from the doctrine of predestination upheld by most of the world’s monotheistic religions (Christianity, Islam and Judaism). The said doctrine maintains that whatever happens has already been determined by God. What if this means that God, omniscient and omnipresent that He is, only knows, and not controls, how our future unfolds based on the decisions we make as individuals? It doesn’t require a scientific mind to figure out that it doesn’t make sense that God gifted mankind with a free will if after all He already preordained everything.
The Buddhists and Hindus believe that our destiny as humans is determined by our actions, thoughts and words. If it is so, it is important to be careful with what we do, think, and say.
Creating our own destiny does not mean denying that certain aspects and events in life are inevitable and unavoidable. For instance, we could not choose the body we want and the physical attributes we desire. We also could not choose the parents we were born to. When finally we face the mirror and contend with our personal realities, we could only wish that we were born to parents who would endow us not only with wealth but with good genes.
Yes, we could not control the circumstances of our birth. There’s no way we could also prevent people around us from making bad decisions that might adversely affect us. However, we can choose how we shall respond to all the limitations and unfavorable conditions that we encounter. We could not afford to be held hostage by them. We should never play the role of a helpless victim.
As Jean-Paul Sartre argued, “Predetermined nature, facticity or essence do not control who or what we are; moreover, one is radically free to choose one’s destiny and it is one’s moral responsibility to do so.”
The moment we become capable of deciding for ourselves and aware of our possibilities, that’s when we start charting our own destiny. We should begin by embracing our limitations and recognizing which aspects of our life were not properly put in place by the people who were in charge of us when we were young and incapable of making decisions for ourselves. Limitations and unfavorable conditions can be overcome if one so desires.
This Rollo May articulated by saying, “Fate is that which cannot be changed about a person, such as gender and race. Destiny is that which can be created from what was given.”
Aside from the circumstances of our birth, the only other thing we have no way of avoiding is death. We don’t know when it would come, except to those who are terminally ill and predicted by doctors to have only a certain time left to live. We’ll never know how long we live and how soon we breathe our last. This presents us with a choice – live our live to the fullest and make every moment count or live in fear trembling at the thought of the Moirae named Atropos coming any moment to cut our life-thread.