Tough and Tender

Tough and TenderWhen forging an axe head, there needs to be a specific shape that is designed to function for a desired task: a massive, fairly blunt shape for a splitting axe; a sharp, light shape for trimming purposes (think a hunter’s axe) or a compromise for the American Felling Axe design which, well, fells trees.  The length and shape of the handle should also coincide with that task – imagine a splitting axe head with a hatchet handle 😉

This is all rather obvious to the casual observer, but the axe head itself also needs to be constructed of two different types of metal.  The bulk of the head is of a relatively soft steel to be able to provide mass, but be malleable to absorb the vibrations of the blows without shattering.  This head is split while red hot to accept a high-carbon steel for the blade of the axe.  This is very hard and will hold a good edge…but is brittle, and would shatter without the benefit of the softer steel’s sandwiching of it.

There are more details of course such as wood grain and Rockwell hardness, but suffice it to say, that there is more than meets the eye with the making of a good axe.

This is also true of the people you meet.  They have been shaped for a purpose, and no two of them are exactly the same.  They have been forged by different fires and designed for different functions.  They also have a mixture of toughness and tenderness – one protecting the other.  Many a hardnosed CEO is wrapped around his granddaughter’s little finger, and many a tenderhearted elementary school teacher can whip 30 kids into line better than a drill sergeant can a platoon.

The trick is knowing when to be which.  A CEO whose employees had him wrapped around their fingers wouldn’t last long – or the company wouldn’t; and a granddaughter would certainly not flourish in the presence of a hardnosed, no-nonsense Grandfather.

The beauty of a human being is that we can shift gears based upon the needs of the moment.  A splitting axe is good for splitting…not for trimming; but people can wield either one based on the need.  The axe is a tool…you don’t have to be.

The same Jesus wept at the death of his friend Lazarus, that called Simon Peter “Satan” and drove the moneychangers out of the temple.  He not only told the adulterous woman, “neither do I condemn you, but go and sin no more”; he also told the spiritual leaders of his day that they were “whitewashed tombs”.  He was able to embrace little children at the end of a long day while being angry with his disciples.  He was adept at matching himself to the situation.

Are you adept at wielding your different personas, or are you smashing everyone with a “splitting axe”?

Tough and Tender.  Neither is sufficient.  Both are necessary.

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