“As iron sharpens iron,
so one person sharpens another.”
My mother taught us kids using proverbs and sayings. She would never say “Clean up your room,” but rather “A stitch in times saves nine.” The first thing we learned in Swahili language school was the Swahili saying, “Haraka, haraka, haina Baraka.” Hurry, hurry has no blessing. In fact the word for an Anglo expatriate was “mzungu (someone who runs in circles” and our language was “kizung” and a garlic was “vizungu.” So what are the layers or meaning for today’s proverb.
I think my mother quoted this to me to teach me not to be afraid of competition because good competition brings out the best in me. A worthy opponent who becomes a friend is hard to find. When I would disagree with my husband, iron was sharpening iron, bringing out the best in both of us. I suspect one of the key ingredients in this proverb is honesty and integrity. Someone who is willing to stand up to me and disagree with me and discuss without resorting to bullying, dishonesty or disrespect is a gift. The discussion forces me to think, to reflect and to dig deeper into my own reasons. Cross cultural living as we rubbed shoulders with people who came at life differently than us but who were also educated, intelligent thinkers and gifted people, was a blessing. Having friends who are different can be iron sharpening iron.
Jonathan and David are examples from the Bible. Jonathan was son of Saul, raised in a palace, and next in line for the throne of Israel. David was a shepherd boy, visiting the war front as Israel was being bullied by Goliath. David had no military training, no royal aspirations, and was the youngest son in line to inherit anything. But through that battle, Jonathan saw something in David and the Bible says Jonathan forged a friendship on the spot.
Today my husband and I celebrate 46 years of marriage! He from the rural of Africa married me from the urban metropolis. We are so different and yet these many years later, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he has been a “worthy opponent,” someone with whom I can honestly work through ideas and challenges. So who is your “worthy opponent?” I pray there is someone with whom you can be honest and vulnerable and get honest feedback. Wisdom claims she is that sort of being. Thank God for that person(s) in your life that challenge you to grow to be your better self and perhaps reflect on your ability to be a worthy opponent for another – honest, respectful, and caring. Blessings.”