First of all, iron does sharpen iron. I remember being in the kitchen (alot of my inspiration occurs in the kitchen at the sink!) and needing a sharp knife to cut a piece of meat. Over time the blade had gotten dull. I remembered this verse and took another knife and rubbed the two blades together. Voila - the knife went through the meat very smoothly, saving me time and aggravation.
This phrase is often used when it comes to people and relationships - implying that sharp minds will sharpen other minds around them. In order for the sharpening to take place there has to be relationship. In our relationships we may become dull, or just take things or each other for granted. This is where the sharpening becomes necessary.
The rubbing, the friction or the sharpening can be pleasant or unpleasant. The friction appears pleasant when you are brainstorming ideas, and having great discussion. It appears unpleasant when it seems like a personal affront. This range of friction can occur in the same relationships (i.e. with siblings or spouses). A friend may be the means of exciting another to reflect, dive deeply into, and illustrate a subject. A friend may also be the vehicle by which you are confronted about a personal flaw. What determines the sharpening is how you receive the information. If you use it to become sharper, you are better for it. You will have to exhibit grace, discipline and wisdom as you go through the sharpening.
In relationships the rubbing together, the friction, can be unpleasant, but it doesn't have to be. If there's mutual respect, even though a person may be saying the hard things, your response is up to you. Hopefully you are able to look past what is being said and recognize the why of what is being said.
Our characters aren't molded or changed by themselves. Iron sharpens iron.
Are you being sharpened? Are you receptive? Do you sharpen others?