Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

AGAPE: The Critical Element of Antifragility

Written by: on December 7, 2023

It’s ironic to post about Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book Antifragile during a time when I am very fragile health wise. Over the past 5 weeks, I have battled a treatment-resistant sinus infection that just developed a secondary infection this past week. After days spent in bed with swollen lymph nodes, pain and anxiety attacks, I’ve never been more aware of the fragility of the human condition. Especially as this infection strikes just before the very last week of the semester and a month before the doctoral project is due. With all that in mind, let’s take a look at Taleb’s thesis about antifragility and unpack a few connections I’ve made to my own life.

About Tabel and Antifragile

I would describe Nassim Nicholas Taleb (or NNT as some refer to him) as anti-academic in many ways—at least in the traditional sense of academia. He went from being a professional in the mathematical financial world to an author, philosopher, professor and “epistemologist of the random.”[1] His 2012 book, Antifragile is a manifesto calling for people, systems and institutions that are “not only unharmed by adverse events, but actually strengthened by them.” If something or someone is antifragile, they actually gain from disorder, chaos and the unexpected.[2]

Recent Examples

Recent evidence of antifragility recalls the COVID epidemic and the way that organizations had to quickly move from a static, predictable nature to a fluid, creative nature if they wanted to survive. And indeed, the antifragile not only survived, but thrived during COVID.  It is this ingenuity, risk-taking and entrepreneurial spirit that Tabel suggests the world needs as we move into the future.

Another example is my daughter’s decision to take a gap year this fall instead of directly enrolling in college. At 19 years old, Audrey chose the uncharted path and traveled to ten countries in Europe over nine weeks.[3] If I had read Antifragile at the time, I would have told her that her trip embodied the antifragile spirit. Traveling alone in countries where she did not understand the language or the culture forced her to be responsive and flexible. She met complete strangers who influenced where she plans to study, navigated the ups and downs of international travel, and now has skills she never could have received in a tradition classroom. Facing her fears and coming out stronger is the epitome of antifragility. I am so inspired and humbly proud of her. But I also know something about antifragility that Taleb does not and that is that there is a Divine hand working in the chaos of life, working all things together for the good of those who love Him. [4]

Theology of Randomness

When I typed the title above, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a Theology of Randomness, but a quick Google search assured me there is indeed. As Christ-followers who believe God is ultimately working to bring His Kingdom to earth on this side of heaven, we need to wrestle with the question, “Is anything truly random?” Tackling that question requires more brain power than I have at the moment, but if you are interested in the nitty gritty theological arguments for and against, Griffith and Naraghi tackle it in Randomness and Providence: Defining the Problem(s).[5] For the purpose of this blog, I will rely on Romans 8:28 as noted above with the key word being good. He works all things together for the good. So when chaos ensues whether unchosen (like COVID or my current sickly state) or chosen (like Audrey’s gap year), Christ followers indeed have God’s promise of antifragility, in a sense. We may not get the outcome or comfort we desire, but somehow, some way, we can trust that God will eventually work it for the good. Even if we don’t get to see it in our lifetime.

Agape is Key

Here’s where we come full circle. When Audrey was in Greece, she had the Greek word AGAPE tattooed on her arm and I truly believe AGAPE is the key to antifragility as it is most certainly the key to the Christian faith. AGAPE is a self-sacrificial love. It puts others before oneself. It choses the other over the ego. In it’s purest form, it is Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for the whole world. When I look at all of the challenges I am personally facing and all of the challenges that the world is currently facing, I remind myself that we can indeed by antifragile, but only by putting others before ourselves, as Christ did. In dying, He gave life. It does not make sense to the world, but it does in the Kingdom of God. If more people lived like Him,  no unforeseen circumstance could ever defeat us because AGAPE always wins the day.

[1] Jacques Richardson, “Book Review: Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb,” World Futures Review 5, no. 2 (June 1, 2013): 219–21, https://doi.org/10.1177/1946756713491391.

[2] David Howden, “Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder,” The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics 16, no. 3 (September 22, 2013): 363–67.

[3] Read about Audrey’s travels at www.audreyfleetwood.com

[4] Romans 8:28

[5] Aaron M. Griffith and Arash Naraghi, “Randomness and Providence: Defining the Problem(s),” in Abrahamic Reflections on Randomness and Providence, ed. Kelly James Clark and Jeffrey Koperski (Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2022), 29–53, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-75797-7_3.

[6] Taleb, Nassim Nicholas Nicholas. Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder. Reprint edition. New York: Random House Publishing Group, 2014.

About the Author


Laura Fleetwood

Laura Fleetwood is a Christian creative, certified Enneagram Coach, doctoral student at Portland Seminary and Creative Director at her home church, Messiah St. Charles. As a published author, national faith speaker, podcaster and self-described anxiety warrior, Laura uses storytelling to teach you how to seek the S T I L L in the midst of your chaotic life. Find Laura at www.seekingthestill.com

10 responses to “AGAPE: The Critical Element of Antifragility”

  1. Michael O'Neill says:

    Great post, Dr. Fleetwood. I hope you feel better soon. It is crazy how the unexpected and random seem to show up at the worst times. This is a difficult 30-60 days for all of us and although health isn’t my issue, there are a million other things that keep coming my way. I guess according to TNN we will be better for it.

    “There is a Divine hand working in the chaos of life, working all things together for the good of those who love Him.” Brilliant. As I’m still reading this book, I keep thinking… “yeah, but God.” I’m enjoying it but also glad we know who has ultimate control.


  2. mm David Beavis says:

    My pastor has a saying she repeats regularly: “No matter what comes my way, I am safe in the love of God.” This has stuck with me, and it is a great antifragile, theology of randomness mantra. No matter what comes our way, we are safe in the love of God. Jesus promised randomness. “In this world, you will have trouble…” But he also gives a big-picture perspective: “But take heart. For I have overcome the world.”

    Great observations Laura!

    • David – I love that quote so much. It meant a great deal for me to read it today when I was feeling quite fragile in the midst of all of this. I’m going to print it out and keep it in my office. Please let your pastor know that it blessed me, as well!

  3. Tonette Kellett says:


    I have been praying continually for your health. Hoping you are beginning to gain some strength for the days ahead.

    I loved your post! My favorite portion was the Agape part and your daughter’s tattoo. That is perfect! You are so right; self-sacrificing love is the key to living the Christian life. Get well soon friend.

  4. mm Chad McSwain says:

    Laura – I love Theology of Randomness! I have never heard of that but I will have to look into it. I admire you as a parent allowing your child to have adventure she did. I have thought about my children having to navigate the airports we have and wondered how they would do. I’m sure they would grow as much as I had too! This was truly a growth experience for both of you but one that will define both of your lives in all the random things that come your way. Antifragile indeed!

  5. mm Daron George says:


    Praying for you, your fam, and your health. It is wild that randomness mostly shows up at what feels like the most inopportune time. You mentioned AGAPE as a key to antifragility. How do you think self-sacrificial love plays a role in transforming chaotic or challenging situations into opportunities for growth and strength, especially in the context of Christian faith and community?

    • Thanks, Daron. If we are looking to Jesus as our ultimate example of leadership, self-sacrificial love is the essence of who He is. He calls us to love Him and love others at our own expense. In the chaos of this fallen world, agape love is the only thing that can break through the chaos and shine His light.

  6. Laura, I have been praying you get to feeling better! It has been so evident that we are all facing this resistance to the work and direction we are moving and that chaos keeps finding its way in to our best laid plans. It has amazed me how in the midst of this chaos we have also all stood strong and shined our light in the midst of it all and claimed what we are seeking! Dr. Laura you are almost there keep going!

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