Interlude Continued: The Bible, Stoicism, and Difficult Situations

I have been a little slow in getting back to the reading list, but I have been thinking about the classics and books in the set. In thinking about my last post, another bit of advice on difficult people came to mind. The quote I am thinking of comes from the Bible, and it takes on different characterizations depending on the translation one reads.

The passage I am thinking of comes from Proverbs, 27:17.

From the NIV Study Bible:

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

From the King James Version:

“Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”

I was recently reminded of this passage by an episode of the television show Burn Notice. While that was not the first time I had heard this, it rang a little louder in my ears having recently read some Epictetus. It would be interesting to compare Proverbs, Epictetus, and even some of the modern advice and self-help books that are out there. I wonder how the words in the ancient texts would be taken today if they were passed off as modern.

That said, this idea of one man sharpening another came up one time in my life in the context of fencing. A more experienced fencer was helping me learn the sport and I thanked him for helping me become a better competitor to him and he said that he was helping me become better so he could better hone himself.

We can hone ourselves whether we win or lose, but it can help put losses in perspective. If we learn where our dull points are, we can hone ourselves by using our strengths to work on our weaknesses.

I am trying to carry this idea, and the stoic idea of learning from difficult people into my daily life. I am also trying to remember that it is sometimes good to be a difficult person so that you can help others learn.


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