One day my kids and I were watching a commercial on television for a garden tiller—a motorized machine designed to churn up the soil for planting, weeding, composting, and so on. After a few seconds, we all began to laugh. The tiller was working beautifully, but the close-up showed that the soil being tilled was rich, loamy earth that could almost be tilled with your hands. Who needs a power tiller for that?
One of the kids said, "I'd like to see them film a commercial with that thing on dry Georgia clay." We have a tiller—the largest, most powerful one I know about—and on hardened Georgia clay it doesn't act anything like the one we saw in the commercial. Our machine bounces and lurches over the hard ground, often barely scraping away an inch or less on each pass, and the person operating it is often jerked around like a rag doll being pulled on a chain behind a moving car.
In short, a tiller may work great in one kind of soil but be almost impotent on another kind. As human beings, we discover the same experience in working with other people. When interacting with some people, we're confident and effective, while with others we're at our wits' end. We can't do anything right.
We don't need to feel bad about these failures. It doesn't mean we're incompetent—after all, with some people we're quite effective—but it does mean that in some circumstances we simply can't handle the challenges. We need to observe our flaws and weaknesses, maybe even get the love and guidance of wise men and women, and gradually we'll grow. In the short term, we may even need to avoid some difficult people and situations, because they overwhelm us.
Remember the tiller and don't expect yourself to be equally effective in all circumstances or with all people. Some people are just too much, like Georgia clay.
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