The Law of the Nail

by Andy Wood on March 19, 2010

in Executing Your Plan, Five LV Laws, LV Cycle, Principle of Increase

Ever hear of the Law of the Hammer?  Also called The Law of the Instrument, it has been attributed to both Abraham Maslow and Abraham Kaplan (neither of whom were carpenters, I don’t think).

The Law of the Hammer is based on the idea that people tend to look for cure-alls or over-use familiar tools, especially in dealing with people.  It says, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”

Wise.  In other words, diversify your toolbox.

I’m not a carpenter either, and six months of bending nails in 1979-80 can attest to that.  But I’ve spent a lot of my life building, working with, leading, and being an instrument of healing to people.  And I have observed a corollary to the Law of the Hammer that is important to remember in dealing with people.  I call it The Law of the Nail:

If you are a nail, and especially if you’ve been pounded a time or two, everything (and everybody) looks like a hammer.

I’ve been on all sides of that.  I’ve been the nail.  Banged the nail.  Straightened out bent nails.  Sat in on more than my share of Nails Anonymous meetings (including pastors’ prayer meetings).  I’ve hired nails to go to work for me without realizing how pounded they had been.  And I have learned, sometimes the hard way, that living in a broken world means working with and leading broken or bruised people.  So at the risk of pounding the metaphor too much (sorry), here are some ideas for finding healing if you are the nail, or in the next post, working with and leading the nails in your organization or workplace.

When You Are the Nail

1.  Recognize that you were designed for a purpose.

When you’re hurting and feeling beat up, it’s easy to forget that you were created, gifted, called, and sent forth with a unique purpose.  In the natural, nails were designed to hold materials together – things like wood, shingles, tar paper, and masonite.  The same is true for you.  And just like there are a myriad of different sizes and types of nails, you too are unique and carry great value because of God’s purposes in you.

2.  Discern between “pounding” and “driving” leaders.

When I was a kid, I would play around with scrap wood and a hammer and nails.  One of the characteristics of an inexperienced pounder vs. a purposeful driver is that I would keep pounding on the wood, long after the nail was secured in place.  Or, if I bent the nail, I’d just keep hammering away until the bent nail was lying buried in the wood.

I understand that some people are like that – some leaders in particular.  They just don’t know when to stop.  But not every experience is like that.  There are those leaders who drive you through some pretty uncomfortable stuff in order to bring out the best in you.  That’s why it’s the drill sergeant who gets thanked for teaching you how not to get yourself killed.  Or the tough coach or teacher you go back to revisit – the one who drove you to achieve what you were capable of.

3.  Honor the process of discipline, even when it doesn’t seem joyful.

Yeah, that’s in the Bible.  Here’s the deal, put in nail language.  Discipline is the process of getting the nail driven into the wood so it can fulfill its purpose. Put in people language, discipline is the process of God, often through people, doing whatever it takes to fulfill His purpose in you.  Yes, sometimes that is unpleasant – but in the long term, it brings about some amazing things in you and through you.

4.  Come up for air – not everybody is your enemy.

I completely understand that sometimes it’s hard to tell friends from enemies when you’re sitting in the dark.  But sooner or later you’re going to have to risk trusting somebody.

5.  Don’t assume that because you’ve been bent you are useless.

I come from a long line (well, two) of builders.  And I’ve seen my share of master carpenters.  And it amazes me what they can do with a nail that looks hopelessly bent to me.

So if you’re feeling bent and useless because of your own failures or somebody else’s, listen carefully ( I’m not holding a hammer)…

You are no different. God’s plan hasn’t changed because you’ve somehow gotten all bent and twisted up.  Your purpose hasn’t changed.  And we serve a God who is profoundly interested in restoring you to a place of usefulness, strength, and fulfilled purpose.

Is it any accident that when He became a man, He spent his first 30 years driving nails in a carpenter’s shop?  Or why, when an offering was to be made for your screwups and “bentess,” He “took the nails” for you?

How could you not trust Someone who would love you that much?

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sharma March 19, 2010 at 9:23 am

That was awesome. Thank you & God bless you.

Greg March 21, 2010 at 6:30 pm

Excellent words. God has used you to speak to myself so many times. Thanks

Amara March 26, 2010 at 9:35 am

Lovely writing. God bless you. x

Christina April 18, 2010 at 6:43 am

Very inspiring. My thought for the day that is. God bless us all..thanks for sharing.
.-= Christina´s last blog ..Mid-Week Gold & Oil Trading Report =-.

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