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A Little Friction Can Do Much Damage

As Tropical Storm Fred passed through last week, I was out in my shop working on a project. Even though the temperature was not so high at the time, the humidity was heavy so when it was time to go inside I welcomed the idea of being back in the air conditioned house. But when I went in I did not feel the cool, dry air that I had expected. It was not terribly hot, but I could tell that our cooling unit was not working just right. After looking and listening to see if there was something simple that had occurred that I could take care of or that perhaps the atmospheric conditions from Fred had interfered with the unit’s ability to function properly, I finally concluded that that was not the case and I needed professional help. We made it through the night alright and I contacted the service man early the next morning. (It always makes me wonder how we made it in the early years of my life without any air conditioning at all, but I suppose when that is all you know you do not have other expectations.)

The technician came shortly after I contacted him and got to work to see what my problem was. Immediately upon removing the cover from the unit he informed me that he could see what was wrong—a visible hole had developed in the gas line and allowed the coolant to escape. The hole was not because of a bad line, but because a wire was lying against it. The friction from the constant vibration as the unit ran rubbed a hole through the copper resulting in the unit failing. Thankfully, that seemed to be the only damage—other than the damage that it did to my checkbook!—and in just a few minutes everything was back to normal.

I am grateful that I had someone with knowledge, tools, materials, and ability to solve the problem in a timely and professional manner. Not only did he fix the current problem, he implemented some means to prevent the same thing from happening again.

Friction is a powerful force. In some instances it can be useful, but in many other ways it can cause great damage. Lubricants are often applied to moving mechanical parts to reduce friction and prevent the parts from wearing and failing prematurely. Friction between people is also a destructive force that when left unresolved can destroy relationships.

One of the means through which friction is created between two or more people is unkind and harsh words. Proverbs 15 reminds us that “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly” (verses 1-2, New International Version). And in the New Testament we are warned: “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless” (James 1:26). A pretty strong statement! James understood something we need to remind ourselves of often: thoughtless and malicious words produce a lot of destructive friction between people; we must give careful consideration to what we say and the negative consequences of unharnessed and hurtful speech.

Our words do not originate on the tips of our tongues—they come from deep within. Christ got to the heart of the matter when He said, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).

So how do we prevent the damaging friction that is caused by hurtful words? We have to do what the air conditioning repair man did for my unit—we not only have to fix the outward and obvious, but we have to get to the root cause and eliminate it so it does not keep occurring. To keep our relationships with other healthy, we have to get to the heart of the matter and insure that we are inwardly full of good so that good flows out. That will reduce the friction that causes damage.