Imagine a hammer. A well-worn hammer. Now think about history and that hammer. What were the very first hammers like? What were they used for? To build up or to tear down? To bust or to beat? Although the hammer’s design is much improved, its function remains mostly the same. We can use a hammer two ways:
1. constructively or 2. destructively.
I’m sure I was quite young the first time I used a hammer. And despite my age then, I immediately knew the power of a hammer. It would smash anything! Especially my fingers. I remember the frustration when I missed the nail yet again. I know the fear of dropping the hammer and wondering about those working below (or my toes). I know the exhaustion of using a sledge hammer and the satisfying way it cements things together. I know the power I wield swinging a hammer. It seems to me that there are plenty of lessons in a hammer. Perhaps the best though is Abraham Maslow’s lesson. He quite famously wrote in his ground-breaking book about human psychology, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”
People, everything in this complex world is not necessarily a nail. And we need not always choose the same tools: everything does not need to be pounded. Maybe there’s a different way to think about things? Maybe it’s not so simple? Maybe it’s not so black and white? Think back. At many times we people believed things that were clearly mistakes:
1. The world was flat.
2. Climate change was a myth.
3. The people in charge have all the answers.
No one has all the answers. No one. Not even you. Especially if all you have is a hammer.