Paulo Coelho

Stories & Reflections

How to temper steel

Author: Paulo Coelho

For many years, a blacksmith worked hard and performed many acts of charity; yet despite all his devotion, nothing seemed to go right in his life.
One afternoon, a friend was visiting him was concerned:
‘It really is very strange that despite your firm belief in the spiritual world, nothing in your life has improved.’
The blacksmith answered:

‘The unworked steel arrives in my workshop and I have to make swords out of it. Do you know how that is done? First, I heat the metal until it is red-hot, then I beat it mercilessly with my heaviest hammer until the metal takes on the form I need. Then I plunge it into a bucket of cold water and the whole workshop is filled with the roar of steam, while the metal sizzles and crackles in response to the sudden change in temperature. I have to keep repeating that process until the sword is perfect: once is not enough.’
The blacksmith paused for a long time, then went on:
‘Sometimes the steel I get simply can’t withstand such treatment. The heat, the hammer blows, the cold water cause it to crack. And I know that I will never be able to make it into a good sword blade. Then I throw it on the pile of scrap metal that you saw at the entrance to the workshop.’
‘I know that God is putting me through the fire of afflictions. I have accepted the blows that life deals out to me, and sometimes I feel as cold and indifferent as the water that inflicts such pain on the steel.
“But my one prayer is this: Please, God, do not give up until I have taken on the shape that You wish for me.
“Do this by whatever means You think best, for as long as You like, but never ever throw me on the scrap heap of souls.’

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