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Iron Sharpens Iron

November 8, 2008

Recently, a Twitter friend, @peat, commented that “The process of teething would be a big mark against Intelligent Design in my book.”  Having a child who is actively adding new teeth, I was drawn to this comment.  Yet, at the same time, I have been pondering this comment all week.  The phrase that kept coming back to me is the fact that “armor sharpens armor.”  Or a more popular phrase, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”

When you think about it, over the course of our lives, it is struggle and conflict that makes us more fit for the future we’ve not yet connected with.  It is the challenges we faced as children that better prepare us to be adults.  Albeit, not all of those challenges are easy, and some of the challenges that some children face take them out of the race.

Looking at US history, it was the two World Wars of the 20th Century that turned us into an International Superpower.  Granted, these wars had a terrible price, and our goal certainly wasn’t to become the biggest dog, but those conflicts did leave us stronger than we were before.

The story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is about an opportunity to mature.  Whether you see this story as mythical or historical, there are great lessons to be learned.  God could have put men in on earth with no possible way to stray, but this wouldn’t enable freedom of choice.  By putting the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden, He gave them a choice.  How they responded to this choice would determine their maturation process.  It was all about character development.

As my son is learning to walk, I want to hover over him

As I survey my childhood, I’m struck by how hard it was.  Granted, I was born with facial deformities and a shy temperament.  This led to being ostracized, bullied, and dismissed as no one to be reckoned with.  The emotional abuse and scars of my childhood nearly killed me.  I was ready to quit.  But now, in retrospect, I wouldn’t trade those times for anything.  There is s strength in my soul that runs deep.

As my son is learning to walk, I want to hover over him and catch him whenever he looks like he’s going to fall.  I want to protect him from the pain of falling.  I don’t want to spend all day in the emergency department because he gets some huge laceration from the coffee table.  But I know that in the long run this will inhibit his growth.  Better that he learn to fall while he’s relatively close to the ground and moving at slow speeds, than wait for him to be behind the wheel of a two-ton, 400 hp, motor vehicle.

Currently I’m in the middle of a conflict with someone close to me.  Frankly, it sucks.  I want to escape.  I want chuck the relationship.  I want to tell him where to get off.  But if I do that, I will be missing out on an opportunity to grow.  This isn’t about who is right and who is wrong.  It is about learning to accept people for who they are and communicating in a way that develops greater intimacy.

I’m not content with the shallowness

I’m not content with the shallowness of 21st Century, postmodern, Western-Civilization.  I want something more.  I’m not looking for quantity of relationships, I’m looking for quality.  However, the cost-benefit of this process is sometimes difficult to measure.  Most of us have not seen too many examples of confrontation that turned out well.  When the pain gets too great, usually people bail on the conversation.

Parents divorce, siblings estrange, and employment contracts are terminated.  We live in a litigious society where people sue one another for petty and serious issues.  The cost of good communication, the cost of conflict is sometimes too great to bear.

Relationships usually go through a process.  First there is the get acquainted phase.  Then we move into the honeymoon phase.  Many friendships never get past this phase.  It is fun, simple, and safely shallow.  In order to move past the honeymoon, there usually has to be conflict.  Hopefully this conflict takes baby steps, but the deeper the relationship the stronger the conflict.  Working through this conflict successfully will enable the relationship to move to a phase of common-unity.  This is a great place to be, but I’ve only experienced a few times in my life.

Relationships usually go through a process

Wouldn’t it be great if kids had good conflict management/resolution role models in their homes?  Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could be taught conflict resolution as a formal part of life’s lessons – like learning to drive?

My point is: don’t be afraid of conflict.  Embrace it.  Enjoy it.  Accept it.  Work through it.

I once watched a co-worker go through five marriages and divorces in three years.  The interesting thing was that each woman he married was just like the other.  They had similar personalities and temperaments, they had similar body-types and hair color.  As a spectator, it was a sadly, fascinating thing to watch.  In effect, this man married the same woman, five different times.  I suspect that when the relationship reached a certain level, they were unable to resolve the conflict.  Sadly, within a year after the last relationship, my coworker was dead from liver failure, brought on my alcohol and drug abuse.

It’s been said that people don’t change until the pain of not changing is greater than the pain of changing.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could see that coming and accept life’s lessons as they come to us – and not wait for it to become so painful that we have to change?

  1. November 8, 2008 11:30 am

    “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could see that coming and accept life’s lessons as they come to us – and not wait for it to become so painful that we have to change?” — that is so true, both on a personal AND on a societal level.


  2. November 9, 2008 2:55 pm

    I always wish I could avoid the 2×4 upside the head. But unfortunately I have this nasty habit of trying to go through brick walls – like that’s the only option.


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