How Loss And Struggle Can Lead To New Insights

Loss and Struggle

How Loss And Struggle Can Lead To New Insights via @andrewdkaufman #loss #struggle #insights #newyear

At the beginning of December, I finally got the total hip replacement I’d been avoiding. All that was left of my right hip for the past few years was a pile of jagged spurs and dead bone rubbing excruciatingly against one another like a constant, throbbing toothache in my leg that a potent cocktail of painkillers could no longer dull.

My limp had become so bad that I was throwing my back out of alignment and hurting my other leg. I probably should have been in a wheelchair or on a walker. But I wouldn’t consider these things: Such devices, I told myself, were for the frail and handicapped, not healthy, robust guys like me. And I’d kept putting off the surgery because I was terrified by the thought of letting go of a body part I’d had since birth and replacing it with a titanium prosthetic. That just seemed wrong, an admission of defeat.

Yet my obstinance was depriving my young boys of a father who could run around the yard, kick a soccer ball, or even get down on the floor with them. It deprived my wife of a happy, pain-free husband who could help with simple household chores. And my stubbornness was depriving me of a life-changing operation that would relieve the nonstop pain and give me the very sense of healthy normalcy I craved.

We humans tend to be creatures of habit and familiarity, even when what is habitual becomes harmful, and what is familiar is causing pain.

Letting go of anything—a self-image, a relationship, a job, life itself—is hard, because doing so always involves a certain loss. But without accepting that loss, we fail to make space for something new to emerge: a new insight, possibility, or life experience.

As George Bernard Shaw wrote: “You have learned something. That always feels at first as if you have lost something.”

Once I finally accepted that a part of my 53-year-old body had deteriorated beyond repair, I could embrace my vulnerability and get the help I long needed. As I lay recovering in the hospital, I felt a strange spiritual joy in being surrounded by a host of people—round-the-clock nurses, doctors, residents, physical therapists, occupational therapists, nutritionists—whose job it was to take care of me and others like me.

In their presence, I didn’t feel weak and embarrassed, as I once might have, but overwhelmingly grateful.

New Insights On Struggle

Having lost something valuable, I learned something invaluable in return.

As another painful year for so many of us draws to a close, I’ve been wondering whether a lot of the world’s current troubles—from ideological viciousness at home to repressive authoritarianism abroad—aren’t the result of fearful people clinging desperately to beliefs and attitudes that no longer serve either humanity or themselves.

It would seem fantasies of control and domination are alive and well among the holy executioners in Iran, the leaders overseeing Russia’s brutal war of aggression in Ukraine, and some American politicians whose hunger for power is so all-consuming that they’re willing to tear apart our democracy to satisfy it.

How many more tens of thousands of people will need to struggle and perish in Ukraine and Russia before Putin relinquishes his compulsive fantasy of re-establishing his country’s imperial greatness? That dream has rarely served the Russian people well, as ten centuries of repression have demonstrated. It is certainly not serving them right now, and I predict history will see Putin’s obsession as the catalyst for his own downfall. All because he, like so many of us, has not learned how to let go.

New Year, New Insights

My new year’s resolution this time around isn’t about what I hope to achieve in the next twelve months. Rather, I pray for the strength and wisdom to hold onto the things that bring health, happiness, and love into my life and the lives of those around me, and to let go of the things that don’t.

Wishing you a year of peace, health, love, and letting go.


How Loss And Struggle Can Lead To New Insights via @andrewdkaufman #loss #struggle #insights #newyear
In 2014 I published Give War and Peace a Chance: Tolstoyan Wisdom for Troubled Times. The message of the book seems strikingly relevant to our current troubled times. War and Peace is many things. It is a love story, a family saga, and a war novel. But at its core, it’s a novel about human beings attempting to create a meaningful life for themselves in a country torn apart by war, social change, political intrigue, and spiritual confusion.

Give War and Peace a Chance takes readers on a journey through War and Peace that reframes their very understanding of what it means to live through troubled times and survive them. Touching on a broad range of topics, from courage to romance, parenting to death, my book demonstrates how Tolstoy’s wisdom can help us live fuller, more meaningful lives.

How Loss And Struggle Can Lead To New Insights via @andrewdkaufman #loss #struggle #insights #newyear
In 2014 I gave a talk about my book, Give War and Peace a Chance: Tolstoyan Wisdom for Troubled Times, on C-Span’s Book TV. Given the state of the world today, the message of my book and talk seem strikingly relevant. In this talk, I take readers on a journey through War and Peace that reframes their very understanding of what it means to live through troubled times and survive them.
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How Loss And Struggle Can Lead To New Insights via @andrewdkaufman #loss #struggle #insights #newyear

What Mandela Learned from War and Peace: How to Keep Hope Alive in Troubled Times


In Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela singles out War and Peace as a book that had a profound influence on him during his 27-year incarceration. He says that he returned to the novel over and over again, referring to it as his all-time favorite years later.

As the world remembers December as the anniversary of the loss of the greatest moral leader of our time, it’s worth revisiting the masterpiece that helped to inspire and guide him through his darkest days. What Mandela took from Tolstoy’s novel, above all, is a vision of fierce idealism in a broken world.

Read the full blog


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