“Cutting Edge”

Having an axe to grind with ourselves


When I was younger, my parents enrolled me in a scouting program. At the time of this incident I was a brand new tenderfoot scout on my first visit to a Scout Camp. A small, thin, shy youth, I was wide-eyed from the start by how many scout troops, scouts and tents covered the area.

On the first day they had us break into a number of set groups, and our unit, of a few dozen scouts of all ranks and from different troops, were instructed to form a line. Tentative, I slipped back towards the rear just in case it might allow me extra preparation time to face whatever was coming. 

One of the scoutmasters brought a long handled axe to the head of the line. He said that he was going to give each of us the opportunity to examine the edge of ax head and tell him if it was sharp. 

For me, I thought this turned out to be a grand stroke of good fortune.

While not necessarily something that I would ordinarily do, because of my extra apprehension about being on this outing, I had actually looked through my Scout handbook on the trip out. And one of the few things that I had read was about how to view the ax head to tell if it was sharp. Looking straight down on the head of the ax with a light behind you, if the edge of the ax reflects light, it is not sharp. The edge of a properly sharpened ax will be so thin and sharp that it will appear dull gray. It will not reflect light.

I was saved! I didn’t have to be too concerned or nervous about appearing dense right from the start.

I watched the line in front of me as each of the scouts took their turn at trying to determine if the ax was sharp. The older more experienced scouts who were at the front of the line went first.

Once a few of the higher-ranking scouts conducted their dramatized examination, and loudly voiced their verdict that the ax was “very” sharp, everyone in front of me concurred. When my turn came, they were all standing behind the line marking the area set aside for those who believed the ax to be sharp. Not one of all those dozens of scouts declared the ax head to be dull. 

I am thinking to myself that this is going to be easier than I thought. I could easily see where this was going, … until it was my turn to look at the edge of the ax head.

Immediately I saw that the ax’s edge was reflecting the sunlight.

Wait a second! This was exactly what the information in the scout book instructed as to what to look for so that you would know when your ax head needs sharpening.

So there I was, as sure as I could be, that the ax head is dull. But as a new tenderfoot scout, there just wasn’t any way I was going to risk being the only one wrong, or even right, in front of all those scouts.

Agreeing with everyone else that the ax was sharp, I joined the others behind the line.

Shortly after that, the scoutmaster concurred with my original observation. The ax was not sharp.

I knew it! I knew I was right!

But it didn’t do me any good! When it came to this ax incident, I could have handled it better.

It didn’t help me in any way to have the knowledge that I needed, because I wasn’t true to the truth of myself. I chose to join others in their ignorance, rather than basing my decision on what I knew to be true.

Whenever I think about this occurrence, I still feel a little twinge of misgiving. 

But I did learn the lesson.

When it comes to our life essence, each one of us has to make our own choices.

We cannot depend on others to make the choices that will affect our life entity. Regardless of anything else that has happened to us, despite the situations we have had to endure, or even any out of the ordinary circumstances that have had a monumental impact on us, we are still, each one of us, responsible for our own decisions.