Posted on

Tension and Compression

by Mandy Blume
tension compression

A Balance of Tension and Compression

There are two types of forces involved in building. To have a great structure, which we call, “strong bones”, there must be a balance of both tension and compression. Anticipating an inspection, we cut out these holes to reveal the rebar inside. Once the inspector validates the block wall is properly constructed, we will pour concrete into the top of the blocks to solidify and thus strengthen the walls of this two-story home.

Tension and compression


The beauty of being a builder is the daily reflection of life that exists as we work. Gazing at this image of the rebar bound together, I imagine these rebar sticks holding together anticipating the liquid concrete that will soon smother all their space.

As a strange metaphor envelops my thoughts, within seconds I realize that the concrete material and steel material work together symbiotically. This unity is difficult, beautiful, organic, and unavoidable in order to have success. Yet it is the order of things. The steel is stronger when you pull it, which translates to a type of tension. Conversely, concrete is strong when it squeezes together; meaning it is in compression.

To continue this thought process, I begin to smile thinking of my marriage. It is full of a balancing act with little  “gives” and “takes”. Sometimes, it feels like I’m pulled too far and the “tension” is uncomfortable. Other times, it’s confining and stifling with too much “compression”. But as time moves through the forward motion, this friction creates something beautiful. Through all these memories and experiences, I’m proud because only in these experiences can my bond be made stronger. If there is too much tension, I will “crack” or become frustrated. Likewise, if there is too much compression I will “crack”.

All of this reminds me of how wonderful it is to be a builder. Building a good home or a good business requires a good foundation where every material has the capability to handle a specific amount of “pull” or tension. And every material  also has an ability to handle a certain amount of “squeezing together” called compression.

Tension and Compression arrows

Together, this symbiotic tension and compression creates a very good structure that will outlast the storms we face in life.

We will keep on building as long as we are allowed the privilege, and I hope that when the tough elements of life hit us, I can always remember the value and strengthening of the process, even though it is an unwelcome refinement. A little give and take or “tension and compression” is a good thing for the end product. It just means we are still living and moving forward.

January 29, 2020