Most likely you’ve read or listened to work by Stephen Covey. His seventh habit of highly effective people is “sharpen the saw”. In his metaphor people are the saw, and we sharpen ourselves as we develop regular habits of emotional, physical, and spiritual renewal. This ultimately makes us more mature and effective in our lives. As with a saw or knife, when we are dull emotionally, physically, or spiritually, it takes more effort to accomplish our work. Dull skills are not as precise or prone to create the results we desire. Covey’s advice is excellent; Invest time in these areas of your life through reflection, reading, experiences, discussions, etc.
I’ve reached the cross-roads of a relationship in my life with someone that often did not see eye-to-eye with me. As I reflect back on the relationship, I now see that this person was helping me “sharpen the saw” of my life. Going through the process was not easy though. Just like sharpening a knife requires a stone and piece of leather, sharpening our lives often requires someone much different than ourselves. They challenge us to think in different ways. They teach us skills we didn’t know. They increase our emotional maturity by teaching us to have edifying discussions rather than destructive ones.
The important things in my life are built from relationships with others. I know now that “sharpening my saw” is no different. Will I go and look to associate regularly with people that challenge my comfort zone? Not necessarily. But I do recognize that I should not automatically run from others in my life who may challenge my way of thinking. These are the very people who could make me stronger and wiser.
In the tenth chapter of Ecclesiastes it says “If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed. but wisdom will bring success” (10:10). An unsharpened instrument used for cutting can be more dangerous than a polished and sharpened instrument. So keep yourself sharp and be thankful to those who help you get there.