I felt discouraged and wondered if I would ever get this father thing. The following day, I read an article in a magazine that changed forever how I would see my role at home. The article was written by Gary Smalley, a relationship expert and author. The article was entitled The Two Swords of Power.
Smalley uses an analogy of swords to describe why men sometimes have a difficult time applying the tools they use at work to their responsibilities at home. In his analogy, he says that men have two swords given to them as they grow up. The silver sword is the sword of positional power, and is the one we use in the world. The golden sword is the sword of personal power, and is best used at home and in loving relationships.
I quote now from Smalley's book The Hidden Value of a Man to hear the analogy in his own words.
"The silver-handled sword we write of is a man's positional power. That's the clout, control, prestige, and authority that come to a man because of where he works or what he does. It's his job title, his resume, whether he works on the line or supervises from the catwalk. It's the number of academic degrees he has earned or the way other men respect the clear mark of a craftsman when he finishes a job.
"Positional power shows up clearly on a corporate flow chart. It's whom you know, whom you lunch with, where you've been, what you drive, and how many people report to you. It's the name on the door, the label inside your suit coat, the right to drive the company car, the title on your business card, or the key to the executive washroom.
"As men, we're used to using this sword—and having it used against us. Books on positional power like Dress for Success, Your Perfect Right, Power Negotiating, and How to Get Yours fill the business section of most major bookstores.
"Positional power centers on an image … and doing whatever it takes, to whomever, to increase and maintain that image of excellence.
"Personal power, on the other hand—the gold-handled sword—may or may not be accompanied by an impressive title, gold American Express card, or Ph.D. It's the ability to develop meaningful, fulfilling relationships; a willingness to do whatever it takes to strengthen our families and find the help we need to overcome any strains in our marriages.
"An important aspect of personal power is our inner character, who we are. Words like warmth, sensitivity, dependability, determination, genuine compassion, affection, and caring all reflect a man's strength and value."
As I read this article and subsequently the book, my entire perspective changed. Reflecting on that difficult evening, I recognized that I could not apply my silver sword skills at home. I had to learn to figuratively hang up the silver sword of my work world on the tree outside the front door of our little home and strap on the golden sword when I came in the door.
So on the way home from work each night, I would think through the day and make a mental note of the things I needed to do tomorrow, and then I left my work problems in the car, changed swords in my mind and went in the front door ready to use the golden sword.
Over the last 25 or so years, I have changed swords literally thousands of times. And seeing my life at home as being blessed by the golden sword has made me a better husband and father. I interact very differently with my wife and children (and now grandchildren) than I do with colleagues at work. And interestingly enough, I have found that the skills of the golden sword have found application in my workday world as well. I try to only use the silver sword now when necessary at work, but for the most part try to exhibit strong personal character (a golden sword attribute) to influence my colleagues, superiors and subordinates for good.
If you struggle with translating from work to home daily and wonder why the workday skills seem so inadequate at home, try hanging up the silver sword of positional power and putting on the golden sword as you spend time with your children and family. It will amaze you how much things will change as you gently wield the golden sword to bless your family for good.