As I was finishing the renovation of my home, built in 1907, one of the last projects was finishing a custom, butcher-block bar made from the wood studs in the walls that had been opened up to create a larger kitchen. It was beautiful. But, it was rough. The wood was gnarled and nail ridden. Starting with very rough sand paper, we began sanding. Layer by layer, we increased the grit of the sandpaper until, finally, we were using ultra-fine, steel wool. In the end, the wood was “finer than frog’s hair” as my Tennessee family would say.
In order to polish ourselves, a little friction is needed. There is no growth without pain. Troubles, worries, frustrations, and arguments are catalysts showing us where we don’t’ want to be, what we don’t want in our lives, or how we need to change ourselves. Our relationships are our mirrors and our greatest teachers. But, wow… they are hard, too. So often, we experience the “rub” of relationship.
A gem must be polished using continual and easy friction. A stone polished with force and aggression will be left with scores and abrasions that cannot be removed.
In conflict, the words that we say and the thoughts we think can create scratches and scuffs, and sometimes worse, gashes. We are working on one another all the time. We are all in process, shaping and molding, sculpting and whittling.
It is necessary. This shaping happens all the time – in relationship and across society. Not long ago, we still had segregated restrooms. Society, belief systems, and thought movements are ever changing as we share and commune and “rub” one another.
A plant that is not pruned will grow long and straight and be quite narrow. Eventually, its height will outpace its leaves and growth will be stunted. For a plant to thrive, it must be pruned. Pruning will cause the plant to grow both tall and wide. Pruning helps the plant thrive. However, if pruned too much or cut too deeply, the ‘wound’ to the plant would be fatal, and it would die. The same is true for us. We need a little pain and struggle to develop depth and wisdom. We must know sour to fully appreciate sweet. However, if we experience too much pain, we can wilt, retreating into the safety of our shell and forbidding love’s entrance.
To love we must be vulnerable. To grow, we must experience pain. This is a tenuous dichotomy to hold – allowing oneself to be vulnerable and at the same time – also allow and take in feedback, fight through defensiveness and the natural tendency to reject new ideas, to receive polishing, shaping, and that rubbing that comes in relationship without bucking, resisting, or worse – attacking in defense. What a delicate balance!
But, this is the nature of the universe. Everything is duality. There is order in chaos. To reach our highest potential, we must be open, not closed, but also experience hurt/shaping/feedback in order to love/grow/change. Love cannot exist without being open and vulnerable, wearing the essential nature of our soul on our sleeve. In this raw state, we love at the level of the soul. But, this is also the place where we can, naturally, be hurt the easiest. Our shell gone and force fields dismissed, we are the most raw and susceptible to pain. And, in this space, we are able to be polished. We have to openly receive a little rub – a little friction and pray that the surgeon of our heart and soul is gentle and kind, careful and considerate, patient and earnest.
So… give your beloved a little rub, but use an easy grit. Words and thoughts are things. Don’t cause wounds and abrasions. Be open to feedback without creating walls of defense. And, if you are vulnerable enough, who knows where a good rub might lead …
Dr. Ryan Pride is the owner of the Moksha Institute, a firm dedicated to improving the wellbeing of individuals, teams, and organizations through culture transformation and leadership development. A profit-for-purpose company, the Moksha Institute applies Ancient Teachings for the Modern Time in order to transform striving into thriving.