Amor Fati: From things happen to me to things happen for me…

Posted by on Jun 11, 2023 in Blog | 10 comments

brown wooden bridge over green trees

The Stoics have a lovely expression, “Amor Fati”. In essence it means love your fate, or at the very least, embrace your fate. Probably originating with Epictetus, the slave who became one of the founders of stoicism, it was popularised through the work of Nietzsche who in Ecce Homo writes: “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… but love it.

Love your fate. Why?

Stoics differentiate between what you can and can’t change. They accept that much is outside of our control, and being outside of our control, argue it is foolish to waste time and energy over it. What we need to focus on is what is within our control. This includes our response to things we would have preferred not to happen, but could not prevent. We might not be able to avert the tragedy, the illness, or the conflict we are forced into, but our response to external events is always up to us, and we must rise to the challenge to embrace what comes. Through doing so, we become deeper and nobler people.

Albert Camus, whose philosophical position is difficult to pinpoint (perhaps neo-stoicism is close enough), beautifully wrote: In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love. In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile. In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm… In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.

We might not choose what happens, but we do choose our response. Humans are truly remarkable, and the ability so many have to live with dignity and courage in the midst of horrible adversity is inspiring. Amor fati. Many are able to embrace their fate and enrich all of us in doing so.

For all that, amor fati can feel a little like whistling in the dark. It’s better than doing nothing, but in the end who are we fooling? And sometimes that’s the problem, for in embracing our fate we might trivialise it, or prevent ourself from feeling the full force of it. We might also prematurely assume that we can’t change things and too quickly accomodate ourself to the stiff upper lip. In fairness to the Stoics, they advocate careful discernment between what can and cannot be changed. If change is possible and desirable, they are in favour of activism. But they are wise enough to recognise that much lies outside of our control, no matter how much we rail against it. Amor fati is then appropriate… embrace your fate, or even better, love your fate.

As a person who subscribes to the Christian faith, I am glad that faith provides an additional incentive to amor fati. It’s the quiet conviction that “fate” is ultimately in the hands of a loving God. Believing this sees fate morph from something that is done to me to something that is done for me. I can become a better human because of this. I’m not some meaningless pawn in an accidental chess game, but am purposefully and carefully created. As Psalm 139:13-14,16 says: “You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made… all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” As someone who has been purposefully created of course I say “amor fati” – for I trust the good purposes of God.

This does not mean I don’t face situations that seem inexplicable. Nor does it mean I never argue with God. Indeed, people of faith have often argued with God – try Psalm 13:1-2; 22:1-2 and Habakkuk 1:2 for starters. Sometimes their questions were answered, sometimes not. But just as embracing fate is a choice, so is embracing faith. I choose to believe in the goodness of God even though some questions are baffling and trite formulas fail. Amor fati is then not a stance of courage, but the posture of faith. It is a posture we hold until the day promised in Rev 21:4 dawns: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Until then, amor fati – for God is good…

As always, nice chatting…

Photo by Sven Huls on

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  1. Hi Brian – I cannot thank you enough for this beautiful read. After 26 yrs of marriage my husband has just divorced me. We moved from Cape Town to Perth 13 yrs ago and were happy here. Without me suspecting anything he had an affair with a Mongolian woman (Engineer) on the mine there for many years but only told me about it last year. I was told that she is more intelligent than I am and have a better personality. It tore my heart as I am an Aged Care worker and love my job.
    The divorce will be final on 6th July 2023 and I have fought with God about it, asking a million questions over and over again.
    Today I am in the City – singing in the Born to Sing 1000 voices choir in Perth Concert Hall. This is a step forward in my healing journey. As I am sitting in a hotel room this morning, scrolling on fbook, I found your gem of Amor Fati.
    Thank you for sharing that – it has changed my whole perspective.
    I am a Christian and will continue to embrace a posture of faith.
    God bless

    • Thanks so much for sharing Cyrlene. I am so glad that you are facing this very difficult situation with such courage and so constructively. I’m delighted you are part of the choir – a wonderful decision to move forward. Amor Fati – perhaps in time God will show you that this didn’t so much happen to you but for you. And regardless, God will be with you on the journey.

  2. A very inspiring piece of writing. Thank you so much. I don’t have a tattoo but if I was to get one Amor Fati would have to be a consideration 🙂

  3. Great post, thanks Brian. Really thoughtful and wise words. I appreciate your informed Christian perspective on currents in contemporary thought, such as “amor fati”, as articulated by the Stoics. Please keep up the great work! Warm greetings from Berlin.

    • Thanks Joshua. Hope things are going well for you in Berlin.

  4. I don’t even know where to begin. This morning I was laying in bed, having coffee and decided to scroll through Amazon Video to see if there was a good movie to watch. I found A Good Person with Morgan Freeman and started watching it. The middle part of the movie, Allison asks Morgan Freeman what that tattoo means on the inside of his wrist Amor Fati. He told her it was personal. Towards the end of the movie, he leaves a letter for her and in that letter he tells her what amor fati means. It really shook me up and I started crying (as usual) and decided to research in a little more depth about Amor Fati. I’m a Christian and wasn’t sure if me believing in this would go against my Christian beliefs. I found conflicting info on the Internet and then I came across this article you wrote on it. I have experienced a lot of tragic situations in my family over the years including being estranged (their choice) from my children and grandchildren. I questioned why God would allow this to happen in my life and then of course, I looked at my own shortcomings as a mother and knew I had to take some of the blame for the situation. But I’m so distraught and broken from it, that I just seem to wander through life feeling empty inside. Reading your words about Amor Fati was truly comforting and maybe that’s the only way I will get through this situation. It’s been about five years now and it never gets easier but I have to learn how to go forward and just accept the situation as it is. Thank you so much.

    • Thank you for sharing Linda. Not an easy situation for you. I pray you’ll know God’s peace as you journey forward.

      • Thank you Brian for your response and your prayers. On top of everything else going on that I told you about in my last post, I just got diagnosed with mild emphesema. 40 years of smoking will do that you but I quit some years ago but thank God it is treatable. So I relish Amor Fati and will be going to see my tattoo person to get it put in script on my left inner arm so whenever I get in that funky place about my situation in life, I can look at Amor Fati and keep pushing forward. God Bless you.

        • I am sorry to hear that Linda, but good on you for responding with courage and hope. God bless you in the journey ahead. Amor Fati…

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