I was on Facebook one day and saw an article that really got my goat. I cannot even remember what it was about, but I was ticked. It had to do something with my perception of corruption that sometimes takes place in the church. So, in my anger, I released my verbal “sledgehammer”, posted the article I was furious about and wrote my opinion about the article in a way that was, well, just plain mean. BAM! I ranted and I raved. BAM! I was angry and I wanted every to know how I felt. BAM!

Then I got a text… from my Pastor. I love my Pastor; he is my friend and a man I greatly respect. He has permission to challenge me and that he did. He countered my opinion, and then set a challenge before me, “Darla, you can’t build something beautiful with a sledgehammer.” He was right. I had over done it and I needed the rebuke. I took my post down. He was challenging me to build others up, not tear them down. Even if I did disagree with this article and wanted the world to know about it, the way I did it was wrong.

I have a history of using my proverbial “sledgehammer” to pound out my opinions. I am quick witted, sharp tongued, and a good debater. People tell me all the time that I should have been a lawyer. I read, I study, I do my homework about what I believe, about history, about human behavior, about psychology, about leadership, and a lot more. I love to learn, and I have a great memory. That can be good, or that can be a disaster. Depends on how I use it and I have not always used it well. I have thought for years, that being forceful was effective in getting people to change. I consider myself a truth teller; however, speaking my truth is one thing, the “way” I do it, is another. Don’t get me wrong, I still think there is a place for being forceful, but it cannot always be my “go to” philosophy if I am going to inspire people to change.

During our “shelter in place” and “social distancing” time, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on what it is that I want to build. I want to build something beautiful, something that will last, something that will leave a legacy, something that will empower and equip people, something that brings a light to the darkness. It is so easy for me to get caught up in the darkness. To look at everything through a lens of conspiracy, evil, wrong, corruption, etc. We have enough of that in the world, what we do not have enough of is believing the best about people, good, right, truth, love, joy, peace, kindness, patience, gentleness, and self-control. To get rid of the darkness, our light is going to have to outshine it. I was thinking last night about my grandma Dorothy who was born in 1917. Her mother died of the Spanish Flu, during the pandemic of 1918, she ran away from home at 16 because of an abusive step mother, married a moonshiner with a rage problem, went through the Great Depression, WWII, Vietnam, the Civil Rights movement, JFK’s assassination, and the Cold War. My grandma lived through all kinds of government corruption and conspiracy, an abusive childhood and marriage, poverty, etc., and her light was bright. I never heard her once use a “sledgehammer” to tear people down. She never complained. She was never negative. She was a light to everyone who knew her. She was beautiful, not just physically, but in her very soul, and people FLOCKED to her! Talk about living through difficult times in this country when conspiracies ran high and people were mean to each other. My amazing grandma came out of ALL of that shining like a star.

What are we doing to bring light to the darkness? Are we lifting people up or tearing them down? If people looked at your social media page, your emails, or the words you use around others, would they see light? Or would they see darkness? Would they see someone building something beautiful? Or tearing something down with a sledgehammer?

I already know someone’s going to say, “But Darla, before you can build something beautiful, sometimes you have to tear it down.” I do not disagree. However, my question in return would be, how much time are you spending tearing down versus building something up? Tearing down is temporary; building something beautiful is permanent. Tearing down shouldn’t be an all day, everyday occurrence. It does not take years to tear down a building. It does, however, take an incredible amount of time to build it and keep it beautiful. Tearing down is the easy part. Building something beautiful takes times, planning, and intentionality. Building something beautiful requires that I have more tools than a sledgehammer.

I guess my ultimate question for you and for me, is what really matters to us in this life, and what are we doing to make it better? I think most of us mean well when we use the sledgehammer, but maybe it is time to stop and think about what we need to do better to build something beautiful, rather than falling naturally into tearing something down. It is certainly counter cultural in our society right now to build something beautiful. It seems to me that pounding people repeatedly with sledgehammers is the new normal. Despotism is replacing benevolence, and quite , it is starting to hurt my ears… and my heart.

Questions to ponder:

  • 1. Am I open to considering how being a “sledgehammer” has hurt people?
  • 2. What do I need to do to start using different “tools” to build people up?
  • 3. Do I have a blind spot, where I simply cannot see how being a “sledgehammer” has hurt people?
  • 4. What kind of legacy to I want to leave for this world? What decisions would I need to make every day to build my legacy?
  • 5. Do I need to apologize to anyone I have torn down with my “sledgehammer”?

2 Responses to ““You Can’t Build Something Beautiful with a Sledgehammer””

  1. Mary Catherine Williams

    Great article Darla. So true about being a sledgehammer and it can become habitual. The problem with that consistent behavior is that when you are a hammer… everyone looks like a nail!

  2. Kerry Lyn DeBauge

    Oh boy, I sure am good at being a sledgehammer! Not always, but when I feel unheard or disrespected, I sometimes break that out and whack away. Generally this has been at my husband. Reasons aside, I’d often have to “yell to be heard” with him, and hated myself in the process. It’s not who I am “normally”, and sure not how I want to be.


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