My wife’s another goblet of silver, here. The discussion went this way:
Me: you suggest that’ encouragement is sometimes about finding the right time for iron to sharpen iron.’ Does that mean we just have to wait for the right time to give somebody the truth they may not like to hear?
Wife: I think it’s more difficult than that. There’s more to consider. Iron sharpening iron must be a massively complex idea as an encouragement process. In that there is a stand-alone post.
Me: All right. That sounds very exciting.
I think there’s a truth here to be straddled. First, there is the biblical truth that iron sharpens iron; we can sharpen each other as human beings; and we can sharpen the circumstances of life. When this happens, it’s a great achievement. But second, when we’re stretched in a way that’s encouraging, we’re only’ sharpened’-and it would be helpful to look at encouragement as the trait of giving courage to others, helping them to be brave.
If we are’ sharpened’ in such a way that when there is insufficient trust we are presented with’ a truth,’ or the person delivering the sharpening does not discern the right time or method, words or tone,’ the truth’ will not sharpen a person as much as it will stab them.
We’re only sharpened in a way that we find encouraging when we’re stretched.
If anyone were to think, no, that’s too soft on the person, I would argue that from a biblical point of view, our approach to them is still wrong. We, ourselves, must look inward to determine our own motives and be truthful.
Isn’t gentleness in those who truly have God a fruit of the Holy Spirit?
Read that phrase again.
In those who truly have God, is not gentleness a fruit of the Holy Spirit?
If we are truly Christian, we are gentle, or we are on a journey to gentleness, which means that if we are not, we will repent. Our relationship with God means that when we are not gentle, the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin.
Our sin’s conviction is always a good thing.
God calls us all to a higher wisdom: to do the work of sharpening ourselves and others in accordance with the work of God in us. We have to allow Him to sharpen us first. That’s the main thing. Our sharpening of others has no credibility if we’re hypocritical purveyors of truth-like, do as I say, not as I do. It is not working.
Too often we have’ sharpened’ each other in the Christian scheme of things without due care and respect for gentleness. It’s wrong with us. We have been short of God’s glory, which is to illustrate self-sacrifice. Then, when we’ve’ sharpened’ somebody’ for their own good,’ we wonder why there is a reaction to stress-I mean post-traumatic stress; PTSD ingredients.
In fact, what we have done is not dealing with our own frustration and taking it out on another person. Because, there’s always a way to speak gently. (And here I am confronted with my own hypocrisy when people would definitely say that I was harsh with them. What we’ve actually done is to polarize a person away from the growth potential we’ve seen in them. We defeated the purposes of God.
And the person is being abused.
A better way is this: our forefront is always sharpening. A real sharpening is a pure incentive. The way God helps us is to live a penitent life that accepts our own ugly truth. We naturally curate trust in relationships when we do this well, because people feel safe with someone who has the courage to see their own fault first.
When we learn this, we really have more capacity to encourage others, because the sharpening comes from a core that believes’ I need to sharpen, first, before I can see how to sharpen another.’
Again and again, here are the words of Jesus in red in Matthew 7:1-5 (NRSV):
1 “Do not judge, that you may not be judged. 2 For by the judgment you make you shall be judged, and the measure you give shall be the measure you receive. 3 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not see the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘ Let me take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye?
Let our gage be their reaction to encourage another. If another person doesn’t feel encouraged, we ultimately didn’t do it right after we both reflected on what was done and how it was done.