Two crossed swords

Iron sharpeneth iron

Meaning: Friends improve each other

Originated in: 🇮🇱 Israel

Original quote: בַּרְזֶ֣ל בְּבַרְזֶ֣ל יָ֑חַד (Hebrew)

Earliest attestation: Proverbs 27:17 (circa 96th decade B.C.)

This is part of an ancient proverb from King Solomon. Originally it was the first half of a simile. The full verse explains what it means:

Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

When you rub two metal blades together at just the right angle, they will both get sharper. They will shave off each other’s imperfections and force the remaining material back into a new sharp edge.

Two friends will correct each other’s imperfections just like this. A true friend says when you’re doing something wrong and will help you be better. He will keep you accountable. Friends even have a habit of irritating each other in all the right ways to develop patience and forgiveness in each other.

A friend doesn’t just enable and validate and say that you are perfect just how you are. A real friend will, yes, remind you that you are a special, wonderful, loved creation of God’s, but will also be honest with you and tell you when you are wrong. This makes us even better people for the knowing of such friends.