Wedges in Family Relationships

I've written previously about how I use metaphors to teach counseling principles to my clients.
This week I learned about another powerful metaphor - the feller's wedge. I recently used the following story as a metaphor in a couples counseling session, and I imagine I'll continue to use this example to help my clients understand how their habits and patterns affect their relationships over time.


Samuel T. Whitman's “Forgotten Wedges.”

“The story of the iron wedge began years ago when the white-haired farmer [who now inhabited the property on which it stood] was a lad on his father’s homestead. The sawmill had then only recently been moved from the valley, and the settlers were still finding tools and odd pieces of equipment scattered about.

“On this particular day, it was a faller’s wedge—wide, flat, and heavy, a foot or more long, and splayed from mighty poundings [—which the lad found] … in the south pasture. [A faller’s wedge, used to help fell a tree, is inserted in a cut made by a saw and then struck with a sledge hammer to widen the cut.] … Because he was already late for dinner, the lad laid the wedge … between the limbs of the young walnut tree his father had planted near the front gate. He would take the wedge to the shed right after dinner, or sometime when he was going that way.

“He truly meant to, but he never did. [The wedge] was there between the limbs, a little tight, when he attained his manhood. It was there, now firmly gripped, when he married and took over his father’s farm. It was half grown over on the day the threshing crew ate dinner under the tree. … Grown in and healed over, the wedge was still in the tree the winter an ice storm came.

“In the chill silence of that wintry night … one of the three major limbs split away from the trunk and crashed to the ground. This so unbalanced the remainder of the top that it, too, split apart and went down. When the storm was over, not a twig of the once-proud tree remained.

“Early the next morning, the farmer went out to mourn his loss. …

“Then, his eyes caught sight of something in the splintered ruin. ‘The wedge,’ he muttered reproachfully. ‘The wedge I found in the south pasture.’ A glance told him why the tree had fallen. Growing, edge-up in the trunk, the wedge had prevented the limb fibers from knitting together as they should.” 

Whitman wrote: “The ice storm [that winter] wasn’t generally destructive. True, a few wires came down, and there was a sudden jump in accidents along the highway. … Normally, the big walnut tree could easily have borne the weight that formed on its spreading limbs. It was the iron wedge in its heart that caused the damage."


It was the iron wedge in its heart that caused the damage.

Negative patterns, over time, can destroy a relationship.
Whether that relationship be with your spouse, your children, your parents, or friends; whether the negative patterns be selfishness, greed, physical violence, neglect, lying, or yelling, the result will be the same. If you establish a pattern of behavior that does not bring you closer to those loved ones, you will eventually drift away. No matter how small the wedge, if you choose to allow it form your patterns of behavior, over time the wedge will weaken your relationships until something seemingly simple, like a forgotten load of laundry, becomes the catalyst for divorce.

Small wedges may include:
-a habit of yelling a the kids just because you feel tired
-justifying the habit of swearing at your family members
-lying to your spouse about money you have spent, no matter how small the price tag
-not attending family dinners because you have "better things to do."
-minimally communicating with family members in order to focus social media or video games

Don't allow negative patterns of behavior to come between your relationships with loved ones. If wedges are unfortunately in place, know that compassion and love can remove a wedge from any heart. 
Choose to allow forgiveness and compassion to replace a wedge that is hurting your relationships.

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