How do you respond to adversity?

August 21, 2012

How do you respond to adversity?

For many of us, our response to adversity is predictable. Some of us get uptight and become harsh.  Some of us bury our head in the sand and try our best to ignore the issue and hope it goes away.  Some of us give up and wallow in our despair.

Then there are those, whom I admire, who seem to find a way when things are at their worst to get better and change the situation around them and turn it into a win for them.

There is a great story written by an unknown author that has been around for a while called “The Carrot, The Egg, and The Coffee Bean”.  It is an awesome story that makes a perfect analogy about the choices we make when we are faced with adversity.

The difficulties of life are intended to make us better, not bitter.

“The Carrot, The Egg, and The Coffee Bean”

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil, without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me, what do you see?” “Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. The daughter then asked, “What does it mean, mother?”

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity – boiling water. Each reacted differently.

The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak.

The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?”

When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond?

Are you the carrot that seems strong but with pain and adversity you wilt and become soft and lose your strength?

Are you the egg that starts with a malleable heart but changes with the heat? Did you have a fluid spirit but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial you have become hardened and stiff?

Or are you like the coffee bean? When things are at their worst, do you get better and change the situation around you?

We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.

Kevin Martineau

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I am the Pastor at Port Hardy Baptist Church on Northern Vancouver Island, British Columbia. I am married to my best friend and I have three beautiful daughters.

14 responses to How do you respond to adversity?

  1. Brilliant! You know I've had some people tell me that "oh it's just another internet story" about some of these "parables". But they miss out. I, for one, get a lot out of these visual parables. That will stay in my mind. Thank you.

  2. You are right, there are many good lessons to learn from parables like this. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I like that analogy. I want to be a person who affects everything around me. Sometimes adversity accentuates that. We can rejoice in tribulations because they produce perseverance and perseverance, character, and character, hope. It’s a hope that doesn’t disappoint. I’ve seen it in action! Thanks Kevin.

  4. Hi Kevin,
    This is the first time I’ve read the story about the carrot, egg, and coffee bean. When faced with adversity in different times of our lives, I admit I have been the three at some point. Thanks for sharing the story with us, I’ll save this post on my computer if you don’t mind.
    Oh, you might want to check your previous post “19 tips for a successful marriage” because the page does not open.

  5. Hi Kevin
    Thanks for reminding me this wonderful story for which I had written a blog post long time ago and presented in an event speaking about the economical crisis.
    When we now we have the potential of being like coffee everything is possible, we just need to adjust our inner sails to create more prosperity out of any ” difficult” situation!

  6. Where to begin?! Seriously, since I wrote a book about becoming more resilient in life I could go on, and on about this subject. I think the most important thing I’d like to share is that we cannot avoid adversity.

    From time to time we’re going to stumble; encounter unexpected detours, and fail. No matter how much we try to outrun or sidestep adversity, it’s going to happen. The question then becomes not how to avoid obstacles, but how to use them to our advantage.

    Cultivating greater resilience is about learning to master the skills that empower you to avoid getting sidetracked by life’s inevitable challenges and thrive as a result of the experience.

  7. Hi Kevin,
    What a Great analogy to how we respond to adversity. I think I’m an egg. I used to be a carrot, but struggled through many years of learning to become that egg.
    Thanks
    Donna

  8. Hi Kevin,

    I loved this parable! The young girls mother was very wise. The question is how do we deal with adversity? After reading this post I want to strive to be like the coffee bean. It’s along the lines of “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” I work hard to take on what comes my way to come out of it as a stronger person. There is a big difference between the egg and the coffee beans and I would guess that many people react more as an egg. We naturally try to protect ourselves and become hardened inside.

    I know I’ve been like a carrot and an egg in the past, but personal development, growth, and hard work has changed the way I handle struggle and challenge these days and I strive to be more like the coffee beans to get better and change the situation around me during the challenges.

    I think this is a very helpful story for everyone because it is easy to remember visually and we all face adversity at some point in our lives. It demonstrates the possibilities of how we can react during adversity and gives us three distinct choices. Thanks for sharing!

    Raena Lynn