As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. — Proverbs 27:17 NIV
Have you ever tried rubbing the edges of two table knives together? The edges won’t sharpen. What’s wrong? No abrasion. A sharpening stone has grit that will grind away the metal and leave a sharp edge, but the rubbed edges of “iron on iron” doesn’t work. Maybe the writer of this proverb had a different picture in mind. What might that be?
On an anvil, the blade takes a beating.
The raw iron on the anvil has no voice to complain at the blacksmith, screaming with each painful blow. But I am not iron, and I have a voice that sometimes want to defend itself when people object to my actions or style. Is it the way I comb my hair, or the fact that I don’t have much hair? Whatever it is, the blows are painful.
If I’m looking for praise, I should leave the blacksmith shop, because the only way to get sharp is to accept the blows. I need to be like the iron on the anvil that says, “Oh, good. Another blow. Soon I’ll become really sharp.”
The iron must be malleable.
Hardened steel is great for battle but only because it was once soft enough to accept the Master’s shaping. If I am defending my work, then I’m not listening very well. I’m trying to listen, because otherwise I could miss the crucial insights that would help me be more successful.
I must remember, excuses are justification for remaining the same. Criticism may be wrong, and it always hurts. But it can be helpful.
Perhaps constructive criticism is a conflict in terms. But I can make other people’s observations constructive, even when they are wrong, by accepting their thoughts as encouragement to find ways to get better.
In ancient biblical times, Abishai wanted to kill Shimei for cursing the king, but King David said no, the Lord could have directed those words (2 Samuel 16:5–10). David was willing to use an injustice as incentive to do better at hearing and following the Lord.
His example is good for me to follow as I seek to excel at writing and speaking.
Through tempering, the blade keeps its sharp edge.
Iron could never become hardened steel if it ran from the heat. I may cry out in pain, but if I keep walking with the Lord, I will not only survive the fire but will come out much stronger on the other side.
Could I be like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abedenego, with a story that can live for centuries? People who read my life story might say, “No other god can save in this way” (Daniel 3:29).
My dear storytellers, don’t be unduly alarmed by the fiery ordeals that come to test your writing ability, as if this were an abnormal experience. — 1 Peter 4:12