During the pandemic and now afterwards, my wife and I have had a variety of home improvements done. We decided that in retirement our current abode will suffice (with minor modifications) until final preparations will need to be made. So, we have ushered in those improvements and I often have watched the workmen do their work in awe of their specific skill sets.
As I have watched this work being done, I have been reminded of the adage attributed to careful carpenters – “measure twice, cut once.” Double check what you are doing before you make a final cut (choice, decision) that might lead to a significant error or waste. Today’s lumber prices are high, so you don’t want to waste wood. Yet even more important than wastage is the possibility of shoddy work or work that has untoward consequences.
In my field of medicine, “measure twice, cut once” has great applicability. It applies obviously to the specialty of surgery where precise measurements are needed prior to any incision and repairs require equal accuracy.
In non-surgical specialties, equal attention to exactness is necessary. Measure twice can mean a variety of things – double check drug dosing, check for potential side effects, make sure of lab reports, double check the diagnosis, check for alternative methods of therapy, and on and on. Cut once therefore becomes a metaphor for being as careful as possible, being as precise as possible and being as empathic as possible in the course of practicing medicine.
“Measure twice, cut once” has broad application beyond the narrow discussion above. If we don’t consider the response of our words and deeds (“measure twice”), the actions (“cut once”) will often put your relationships in jeopardy and make reconciliation very difficult going forward. Ill-conceived or hateful comments or actions toward others will turn them against us. And likewise, ill-conceived or hateful comments or actions toward us will turn us against them. We are then on a vicious spiral of poisoned interactions.
Comments such as “I don’t think that I can ever forgive you,” “You don’t mean it. You’re not really sorry,” or “When will you ever learn?” will usually ensue. Expressions such as these are repeated in households and workplaces everywhere every day of the week. We humans are social beings, and social beings interact. Interactions inevitably will lead to some conflict. I think our ability to resolve those conflicts defines our “success” in life, our ability to work with and for others. At the heart of conflict resolution is the art of forgiveness, especially if the “measure twice, cut once” strategy was flawed.
While conflict might be inevitable, it is how we deal with conflict that really demonstrates our ability to make a positive contribution to our community. It has also been said that the best carpenter is not necessarily the one who does the best work the first time, but the one who can fix their mistakes the best.
Cut once becomes a metaphor for being as careful as possible, being as precise as possible & as empathic as possible in the course of practicing medicine. Click To Tweet
I think the same analogy holds for interpersonal and social relationships. Our ability to fix our individual “mistakes” and the “mistakes” of our community help us to move on in our lives. Recognizing that we will make mistakes is the first part. When the mistakes occur, then we can work to correct the problems asking for forgiveness for ourselves and extending forgiveness to others. Additional components to successful forgiveness are sincerity (truly meaning what you say and do) and humility (acknowledging that we are all equal in God’s eyes).
I have previously discussed different stages of forgiveness, from childhood to adulthood (check out this article, called How To Move Forward and this one called Why Forgiveness). I now realize that that view is naïve. Even when we become adults, we still have several stages to go through in learning forgiveness. And adults often seem to have more difficulty with forgiveness, more than children or adolescents! Adults seem to think that words will sometimes suffice to express their forgiveness or their request for forgiveness. Words are just the promise of our actions.
“When the mistakes occur, then we can work to correct the problems asking for forgiveness for ourselves and extending forgiveness to others.”
Deeds demonstrate our true resolve and show how we care about our loved ones and others. Adults (myself included) take “baby-steps” down the road to learning true forgiveness throughout our lives. The more steps we take with sincerity and humility and the more steps we take using deeds as the expression of our words and thoughts gets us closer to really learning the meaning of forgiveness. I’m convinced the latter is our lifetime quest.
Let’s all be the best carpenters we can be. Step one is to “measure twice, cut once.” Mistakes will still be made so step two must be to fix our mistakes to the best of our ability. It is fitting that Jesus was the earthly son of a carpenter, Joseph. He manifested the ultimate ability to forgive with sincerity and humility. We all have a lot to learn as we practice forgiveness.