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Baptism By Fire – Meaning – Usage in Business – Examples

What Does Baptism by Fire Mean?

Baptism by FireBaptism by Fire refers to being thrown into a difficult situation with little or no preparation and surviving through wits and determination.

In business, the phrase is commonly used to describe a person or employee who is learning something the hard way through great difficulty.  If a new employee has a baptism of fire, they immediately have to cope with many difficult problems and obstacles.  If an employee successfully passes this ordeal, they should be able to handle any other situation that the job may later present.  The phrase has come to mean any unpleasant experience where a difficult lesson is learned.

Baptism by fire vs Baptism of  Fire

Baptism by fire and baptism of fire are two idioms that mean the same thing. In the United States, baptism by fire is more often used.  The term baptism of fire is more often used in Britain. An idiom is a word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not readily translated from its literal meaning.

Baptism by fire and baptism of fire describe experiencing something for the first time that is very difficult. Most often, a baptism by fire refers to being thrown into a situation with little or no preparation and surviving it through wits and determination.  In medieval times, baptism by fire referred to experiencing battle for the first time or enduring martyrdom.

The terms baptism by fire and baptism of fire are derived from the Bible, from the New Testament book of Matthew 3:11: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” The fire in this passage refers to the fire or inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  (Source:

Baptism by Fire – How the Usage has Evolved

In business, baptism by fire may refer to an experience that reveals an employee’s strength, wit, and quick thinking.  Success is determined by coming out on top of a situation, whether deliberate or by chance. Some companies actually consider it a good way to quickly train a new employee. Sooner or later, everyone must eventually deal with a complicated, real-life situation. For example, police officers, firefighters, and military personnel may be thrown into stressful situations quickly to acclimate to the tough demands of their jobs. The process is a constant evolution and never-ending.  However, tested individuals can be relied on to perform their duties more effectively.  This is because they’ve already demonstrated their mental, physical, and emotional resolve to survive the initial challenges.

The meaning most often used now is of a soldier’s first experience of battle. Because the battle is new to him and he must endure being fired at by enemy guns.  In other words, he is under fire from the enemy. The connection between the earlier religious meaning and the later military meaning isn’t clear. It is quite possible that the two are independent of each other. (Source:

Baptism by Fire vs Trial by Fire

A trial by fire is a test of one’s abilities to perform well under pressure.  The expression refers to the medieval practice of determining a person’s guilt by having them undergo an ordeal.  For example, walking barefoot through a fire. A trial by fire is a situation in which the participant’s abilities and determination are tested. It refers to a test of one’s ability to function under pressure.  In medieval times, when a person successfully survived a trial by fire, he proved his innocence. In modern usage, the ordeal is more a metaphor for proof of mastery.

The term trial by fire, like many idioms, has its origins in reality and literal application. In the Middle Ages, the judicial process often failed to decide the guilt or innocence of a person accused of a crime.  This was either due to conflicting witnesses, lack of evidence, or some other reason for failing to come to a verdict.  In these cases, the accused was subjected to a trial by ordeal. In this trial, the accused was subjected to a dangerous, often life-threatening test. The idea was that God would intervene to save the person in question during the proceeding if he were innocent. (Source:


In business and finance, the phrase baptism by fire can be used to describe any number of situations.

  • New stock traders may be expected to sink-or-swim when the economy slumps into a downturn. To survive they must demonstrate they can successfully execute their trades with minimal losses regardless of which way the market moves.
  • Recent college graduates enter the workforce and stumble through as they learn how to apply textbook knowledge to the real world. The classroom is totally different from the workplace.
  • Hospital interns scheduled to work  24-hour back-to-back shifts in the emergency room
  • A news reporter reassigned to the Middle East news desk a week prior to Desert Storm breaking out.
  • A programmer who has tested and tested his new algorithm is instructed to release it live, online in a real-life test with thousands of users.
  • A PhD candidate required to defend his thesis paper four hours by a pannel of professors in an oral exam.

Up Next: Sheriff Sale Auction – What Is a Sheriff’s Sale?

Sheriff Salesheriff sale auction or sheriff’s sale is a public auction where foreclosed or repossessed property is sold by local law enforcement. The proceeds from the sale are used to pay mortgage lenders, banks, tax collectors, and other lienholders who have financial claims on the property. A Sheriff sale happens at the end of the foreclosure process, or when the property owner can no longer make good on their mortgage payments. A Sheriff’s sale can also occur to satisfy judgment and tax liens ordered by a court.

A sheriff sale auction is a public event. Interested buyers can bid on foreclosed and repossessed properties. Usually, the initial owner of a property is unable to make their mortgage payments.  In that event, legal possession of the property reverts back to the lender or bank. The lender will then attempt to sell it to recover some, or all, of the outstanding mortgage balance.  Sheriff’s sales take place locally and are usually conducted at the county level. Sheriff sale auctions occur quite frequently. You can check with your county sheriff’s department to find out when they are scheduled.  Depending on the location, they can occur at least once a month.  In some jurisdictions, they occur every week.

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