“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9
This past summer my husband and I spent part of our vacation in Pigeon Forge. It is a great place to go, and the Smokey mountains offer wonderful opportunities for hiking, seeing waterfalls, white water rafting and other outdoor activities. We had a great time doing all the things including a day at Dollywood which is always fun. While we were there, we stayed at a small hotel near the Old Mill area. In that area is an iron forge. In fact, it is the home of Iron Mountain Metal Craft whose blacksmith was on two seasons of “Forged in Fire.” Blacksmithing is fascinating to watch. Smiths will take metal and begin to forge the iron or whatever metal they may be working with, into knifes or other metal works through a process that alternately heats up then cools down the metal, as the smith shapes it into something to be used in everyday life. The process tempers the metal making it both stronger and more flexible.
I found it ironic when I got home from my vacation to find out my peer group, a group of other pastors in my district, were going to be reading a book by Tod Bolsinger entitled: “Tempered Resilience.” And in his introduction to the book, he uses the example of the smith’s forge to talk about what it means to be “tempered.” Just so you know, I have found when coincidences like these happen in my life, I need to take notice as they are not really coincidences, but things God is asking me to learn. So, I am learning about what it means as a leader to be “Tempered.” It is not fun. It is not fun to go through difficulties and go through them well making sure I am thoughtfully responding to what is happening in my life when I would rather react. And there is a BIG difference in thoughtfully responding and just reacting.
When we react, we usually act in ways that are not very complimentary. We lose our tempers. We yell, we rant, we threaten, we…well we act in ways that tear down our relationships, our credibility, and respect for who we are. We, in short, do a lot of damage to ourselves and the people around us. But it is hard to not react sometimes. Especially when we are already tired, stressed, hungry, or even feeling hurt by what is happening in the moment. That is why it is so important to learn to pause…take a deep breath…and try to listen to what the other person is saying even if it is not what we want to hear. It could mean letting the other person know when they are done talking that they have given you a lot to think about and would they mind giving you some time to respond to what they have just said. Can you call them tomorrow? Because you see, it is perfectly ok to ask for space to think so you don’t say something you will regret later. It is perfectly ok to push the pause button. It is perfectly ok to ask for time.
The art of blacksmithing teaches us this. A blacksmith will take their time in order to get the work done correctly so what they are making will work the way it is intended to work. Trying to hurry through metal work doesn’t give the good results needed and will only create more work that will then need to be redone. And isn’t it annoying to have to redo what was already done? Asking for time in our relationships helps us to preserve them. And keeps us from having to do the hard work of reconciliation and rebuilding when we forget to ask for time and let our emotions get the best of us. It is too important a lesson to learn to not take the time to learn it. It is too important when we are feeling stressed or anything else to know how to ask for time so we can take the time to process our own emotions and then consider what our best response should be within the current circumstances.
This is a lot easier to write about than it is to do. It is hard to stop an argument from escalating when you are in the midst of it. It is hard to stop your emotions from getting the better of you when someone continues to push your buttons. It is hard to keep your cool when your anger is getting the best of you. It is just hard to thoughtfully respond when all you want to do is react to what is happening around you.
But that is the lesson we learn from the blacksmith. We want to be tempered in our responses which means we need to cool down first just as the blacksmith needs to cool down the iron to make it stronger and more resilient for use. We too become resilient in the midst of difficulties when we take the time to cool down so we can consider our best responses to difficulties. We all live and work in relationship to the people around each of us. Whether they are family, friends, co-workers, or just people we interact with shopping or doing other errands, we are all in relationship in some capacity. How we treat people impacts how others treat us. How we treat people could impact how they treat others. Cooling down, learning to temper our responses to others in the heat of the moment is a vital skill we all need and will help us have those healthy relationships we desire in life.