Remedy for a hard head

Photo of Robin Harris Kimbrough

Dr. Robin Harris Kimbrough

Many of us have heard the saying—hard head, soft behind. We may have heard it in its simplest terms—you’re hard headed. For those who do not know what it means to have a hard head, it is a condition that prevents us from listening and following good directions and information. People with hard heads usually think they know it all, and no one can tell them anything. Or they cannot listen to reason, because they have already made up their minds. Having a hard head is a dangerous condition. A hard head can result in incarceration, losing meaningful relationships, failing grades, wasting time, and having to hear these words: “I told you so.”

The malady of a hard head can be linked to stubbornness, lack of humility, fear, self-centeredness, and prideful thinking. There is a remedy for a hard head. In Numbers 22:21-25, we find Balaam on his way to send a message to the Israelites on behalf of the King of Moab, Balak. The Israelites were on their way to the Promise Land, but they had some cities to conqueror, and one of those was Moab. Balak knew that the victories Israel had experienced over other cities was due to more than just a strong army, and he sent for Balaam, a prophet, to curse the Israelites. Balaam asked God whether he should go three times on the first two occasions. Balaam asked him a third time, and God said, “If the men have come to summon you, get up and go with them; but do only what I tell you to do.”

Balaam went, but God was not happy with Balaam, and caused an angel to appear before him in the middle of his path. Although Balaam could not see the angel, the donkey could see him, and the donkey thrashed Balaam around because of the angel. Then, this conversation took place: “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a fool of me! I wish I had a sword in my hand! I would kill you right now!” But the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I been in the habit of treating you this way?” And he said, “No” (v: 28-30). Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel. The truth is that many of us are like Balaam. We keep asking God for stuff that he has denied us, and keep asking him for optional instructions and directions when he has already told us what to do. We are hard headed.

In spite of our hard headedness, God still shows grace and mercy on us. He may even permit us to take a certain action. But he will be there with us along the way to show us the right thing to do. The talking donkey that speaks to us today is the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. We rebel against it. As the donkey reminded Balaam that its purpose was not to harm but to help, the Holy Spirit speaks to us. However, for some of us it takes making the donkey throw us around and talking some sense into us, before we can see the truth. If we are willing to listen to the talking donkey, God will get us back on the right track. God makes us realize that his way is the right way and the only way to do it.

Fortunately, Balaam listened to the donkey, and he followed God’s directions. It is so important for us on this walk that we take advantage of every moment the Holy Spirit helps us to correct our mistakes and prevent us from making them. That’s love. Sure, we act like Balaam. We beat the donkey. We rebel against people and circumstances the Holy Spirit uses to speak to us. But if we are willing to pause and listen to what God is trying to do in our situation, we will no longer have a heard head, and soft behind. That’s the remedy for a hard head.