Don’t Call Me Lucky

The other evening my family were talking about the concept of luck. We were discussing my sister’s car accident that happened a few months ago, and my Mum was talking about how lucky my sister was to come away with only the relatively minor injuries that she sustained. 

I told them that I don’t believe it luck. Yes I am extremely grateful that my sister wasn’t more hurt in the accident. But I don’t put that down to “luck”. I believe in probability and coincidence. I believe in cause and effect. I am aware of the concept of privilege. But luck doesn’t come into any of that. 

Luck insinuates that neither we nor others can alter our circumstances for the better (or worse). It suggests that certain people get dealt bad cards by the universe for no reason other than because they are “unlucky”, even if a change in circumstances could have led to a very different outcome. 

It puts the responsibility onto the person who is either “lucky” or “unlucky”, when actually sometimes things happen because that is what all the events leading up to it determined would. Everything has a cause, nothing happens in a vacuum. People who have suffered multiple traumas haven’t suffered because they are “unlucky” as though it is some innate trait they possess, but because the world can be a very adverse place full of harmful people and circumstances.

Similarly, I don’t believe that my sister survived the car crash because she was lucky; she survived the car crash because a number of events came together that resulted in her surviving. Regardless of whether it could have been worse or better or different in any way, the distress and trauma she experienced as a result had a profound effect on her. Thats her reality, her truth, and what she has been left to deal with as a result.

One family member particularly disagreed and didn’t like what I was saying. Fair enough, we all have a right to our own opinion – and I can respect that. But then, unfortunately, the conversation took a horrible turn. They started arguing that if someone is sexually assaulted, but not raped, for example, then they should consider themselves “lucky”. Similarly, if someone is expecting twins, and one of the babies dies during childbirth, the mother is still “lucky” that at least one survived. 

This infuriated me!! Someone who experiences such a traumatising event should never be considered lucky nor forced to consider themselves as such! Calling a victim or a survivor lucky because it wasn’t “objectively worse” is exactly why I cannot stand the concept and use of the word “luck”. Neither of these situations should be associated with the word luck, ever!

Doing so completely invalidates the person’s experiences. It dismisses their distress and their pain and all the very real negative consequences of what they have been through. It puts the blame and responsibility onto the victim and what their response *should* be, instead of on the perpetrator or other external causes. 

“You’re lucky it wasn’t worse” is one of the most damaging things a survivor can be told. 

Guess what? There will always be someone who has it worse. Does that make everyone lucky it wasn’t worse for them, apart from the single person who’s at the top of the leaderboard? Fuck no! 

In my opinion, attributing an outcome to luck doesn’t add anything to the world. The concept of luck doesn’t need to exist for the world to keep spinning and people to keep smiling, crying, breathing and dying. We can be grateful and appreciative for what we have and we can be aware of our relevant privileges. That doesn’t mean we have to attribute all of that to luck. At the same time, we are allowed to feel pain as a consequence of the things we have been through. And we are allowed to do so without having to deny those experiences because we are “lucky they were not any worse”.

Good things happen to people. Bad things happen to people. Such is life. But please don’t tell people they’re lucky because you can’t accept their reality for what it is. 

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8 thoughts on “Don’t Call Me Lucky

  1. We learn in therapy that one of the most soothing, healing things people can do for us is to hear our story with empathy, to see our pain and not run away from it. “You are lucky it wasn’t worse” is not empathy. It is actually a minimization of our pain. This may not be because the person is unkind or unfeeling. Sometimes a person minimizes our pain because she can’t bear how bad it is or wants to cheer us up. But it’s a misguided approach.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! Completely agree. But it is very difficult when someone denies someone else’s experience because it’s not something they can deal with. There are so many other ways of approaching this sort of situation that are much more validating. Just listening, like you said.

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      • Exactly. If you think the person is actually a caring person, you can sometimes call their attention to it. Like when my husband was telling me, “don’t worry, your surgery won’t be so bad.” I finally told him, “when you say that, I feel like you are telling me I don’t have a right to be nervous, but the truth is I AM nervous, so I feel kind of invalidated.” He got it right away and stopped talking to me like that. But then, he’s great, and that’s why I am married to him. Not everyone is so attuned.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. There is no such thing as luck; I agree. There is an Almighty God in heaven Who has the whole world in His Hand. Nothing happens by chance.

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