Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

Dealing With Tribulation

Kunde Family Estate, Kenwood, California, USA

August 6, 2017

This essay, Dealing With Tribulation, is the prequel to Seeking Approval: The Watermelon Basket  Incident, And More.

I am indebted to Warren Bennis and to John van der Spuy who inspired this conversation.

This isn't a conversation dishing out advice ie what to do  about tribulation. Neither is it a conversation about how to handle being damaged, hurt, or disappointed etc by tribulation. It's not a conversation about how to walk through fire and not get burned. Listen: when you walk through fire, you get burned. That's the nature of fire. The only way to not get burned walking through fire, is to not ever walk through fire at all in the first place. And as we all know, that's almost never an option in life.

Rather, this is a conversation about what becomes possible  ie about what's revealed when we deal with tribulation. The experience of dealing with tribulation, isn't necessarily an experience we relish. In fact typically it's an experience we'd rather be doing anything else but  be having. And yet looking back after the fact  at who we were being in times of tribulation (that is to say, when we were dealing with it) reveals something profound for the future, something that shapes our character.

To re-state that emphatically:

 1)  it's not tribulation that shapes our character:

2)  it's dealing with  tribulation that shapes our character;

(it's not walking through fire that shapes our character: it's dealing with  walking through fire that shapes our character)

3)  the profound impact of dealing with tribulation, becomes clear after  the fact.

For example (in my case): divorce, about a decade ago. Unwanted divorce. Unexpected  divorce. Enforced separation from my children. Enforced separation from my home. Unnecessary waste of a lot  of hard-earned money (divorce is expensive). Once it started, the legal process was relentless, merciless, unfair? It came at me like a runaway freight train, a tsunami, a punch in the gut, all of the above, callously brushing aside any and every futile attempt I made to defend myself and my children against it. The emotional alarm siren, on a decibel scale of one to ten, blasted deafeningly at a fourteen, day after day after day, night after night after sweat-soaked sleepless helpless night. And the best I could muster was to curl up in the fetal position, taking the rain of body blows, praying they'd end soon (thankfully they did).

From the Cambridge International Dictionary:


a problem or difficulty

That's what tribulation is: a problem or difficulty. And the more severe the tribulation ie the greater the problem or difficulty, the clearer my experience of the naked, vulnerable, open, responsive, authentic person I really am dealing with it, is. During times of tribulation, the naked, vulnerable, open, responsive, authentic person I really am, is acutely, poignantly  experienced. It may be a painful experience. It may be a helpless, defeated experience. And it's hardly ever  an experience I'd rather be having. Yet it reveals the person I really am. No, it's much  harsher than that: tribulation sometimes feels like it stabs into the heart of, and rips open  the person I really am. Accepting this naked, vulnerable, open, responsive, authentic person I really am that's revealed when I deal with tribulation, powerfully shapes my character.

When I'm in the midst of tribulation ie when I'm in the midst of dealing with tribulation (floundering, getting hurt, getting burned, being swept away, utterly hopeless), all too often it doesn't even remotely appear to be a character shaping experience (that's simply not  yet on the radar). Yet whether I fail or  succeed in changing the circumstances of tribulation, the naked, vulnerable, open, responsive, authentic person I am dealing with it all, is summoned to center stage. Even though it may be unwanted and unexpected at the time, dealing with tribulation involves the person I really am regardless of whether I fail or succeed, shaping the person I really am.

Once I've dealt with tribulation, my idea isn't then to avoid, undo, or even correct whatever experience I had while languishing in it (doing so, only seems to keep me stuck in the past, as surely as if I cemented myself there with Krazy  glue). Rather, my idea is to befriend whom I newly know myself to authentically be as a person.

With being who I really am authentically as a person, comes great power. It's observing this power, trusting  this power, and accepting being  this person I really am, honoring  him, loving him, and respecting him, regardless of ie in addition to  tribulation's circumstances, that shapes my character and makes me a mensch, a leader.

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