Post Author: Bill Pratt
Author Nassim Taleb’s bestselling book, Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder, teaches a fundamental lesson. Life is about making oneself antifragile to the random and chaotic events that characterize human existence.
In simple terms, a person’s life is characterized by fragility if unforeseen, random events cause exponentially more harm to the individual, the stronger the event is. Fragility is nonlinear in a negative direction. For example, if a person was faced with a minor financial setback (a loss of $1000), he may respond negatively to that setback, but not suffer a complete breakdown.
If, however, that same person lost all of his wealth at one time, and he did have a complete breakdown, went into a deep depression, maybe became suicidal, then that person is fragile to wealth. The fragile person, when hit with a disaster, implodes.
In opposition to fragility is antifragility. A person’s life is characterized by antifragility if unforeseen, random events cause exponentially more benefit to the individual, the stronger the event is. Antifragility is nonlinear in a positive direction. For example, if a person was faced with a minor financial setback (a loss of $1000), he may respond mildly negatively to that setback, just as the fragile person.
If, however, that same person (who is antifragile) lost all of his wealth at one time, he would respond quite differently than the fragile person. Rather than spiral into self-pity and depression, the antifragile person would benefit greatly from the pain caused by this loss.
Although the Bible doesn’t use the word “antifragile,” this concept can be found in many places. In his letter to the Philipians the apostle Paul rejoices that because of his “chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.” Paul sees that his suffering is good for him and those around him. Paul adds that “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” In this classic verse, Paul teaches that even death will bring him great benefit, not loss.
In Romans 8, Paul reassures believers who are suffering that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” In other words, every time time something bad happens to the Christian, God makes it work ultimately in her favor.
James counsels, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Trials bring great benefits to the believer.
Likewise, Peter reminds us that “even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.”
The follower of Jesus, then, is truly antifragile. Whatever life throws at us, we are guaranteed to benefit from it, if not in this life, then the next. In fact, it seems that the more severe our tests here, the more potential for rewards – nonlinear in a positive direction.
Not so for those who don’t know Christ. For the unbeliever, for the person who has no hope in Christ, his life is ultimately fragile. When things go wrong, there is no benefit, only meaningless pain and suffering. The fragile life is characterized by pain avoidance at any cost. Death is the end and there is no possible benefit from it. The fragile nonbeliever hangs on for dear life, literally, with only the abyss ahead of him.