For a long time now, I’ve believed the superstition that things come in threes. Mainly bad things. Sometimes deaths, specifically, but often just bad things in general. I know it’s silly, and the thing is, I’m not a superstitious person. After all, I believe that God is in control, and He has a plan – and those beliefs don’t really leave a lot of room for superstitions and things such as fate and luck. But it really does seem as if three bad things occur close together.
This happened to me yesterday, as a matter of fact. In one afternoon, I got three e-mails with bad news. First, I learned that a former co-worker is being deployed to Iraq. Second, I found out that a friend has called off her August wedding. And third, I got an e-mail from a pregnant friend who is having complications and had to go to the hospital. All this within just a few hours!
Those three pieces of news coming so close together really made me think about this belief. Where does it come from anyway? Most superstitions or common phrases have an interesting origin or background, so I decided to find out about this one. Who originally decided that bad things come in threes?
After about an hour of searching, I’m sorry to say, I still don’t know. Wikipedia let me down. Google couldn’t help. Even About.com couldn’t tell me much about it. I did find a long (looooooong!) list of different uses for and definitions of three and a very (verrrrrrry) vague explanation of the superstition.
What I did find was an article published in 1984 saying that no, kids, bad things don’t come in threes. It’s just your perspective. (Side note: This article contains a lot of the same positive thinking philosophies that have been written about in certain Oprah-promoted books. But this author makes a point to note that “[e]xpectations don’t always turn into reality.”)
Anyway, it’s true. Looking for threes makes it a lot more likely that we’ll notice thing in groups of three. I know that. So, while I didn’t find out where this belief started, I did get a good reminder from this article: “Things happen one at a time. Whether they are seen as the worst or the best is determined by you alone.”
This little research project has confirmed that there’s really no point believing – or expecting – bad things come in threes. But maybe it wouldn’t hurt to think about how many times good things come three at a time.
Because of course, there are some real and good significances to the number three. The trinity, for one. A solid marriage, for another. And don’t forget some other “important” threes: nursery rhymes, trilogies, famous characters and silly movies.