Nails in the Fence
There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence.
The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.
Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.
The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there.”
The little boy then understood how powerful his words were. He looked up at his father and said, “I hope you can forgive me father for the holes I put in you.”
“Of course I can,” said the father.
I don’t remember where I got this story, but it rang true with me as I look back on my younger days.
I think the lesson the young man in this story learns is such an important one and also is a lesson that unfortunately many of us learn much later in life. When we are young, saying or doing mean or hurtful things out of anger or frustration to the ones we love (or even strangers for that matter) seems pretty easily remedied. As children we are confident that the adults and people in our lives are more then capable to forgive and forget our offenses no matter what we would say or do. It’s not until we reach adulthood that we realize the long term damage our words and actions can have on one another. Suddenly as adults we look back on our own lives at the times when someone hurt us with their cruel words or actions and although we were able to forgive them, there are some things we discover were never able to truly forget.
The fact is there are some things that we may say or do that ultimately can never be taken back no matter how many times we apologize to the one’s we hurt. Unfortunately we tend to realize the level of irreversible damage we caused only in hindsight and even more, the ones we tend to hurt the worst are the people we usually love the most. As the saying goes, “To err is human, to forgive divine,” which is true, we are human, we make mistakes, and sometimes we say or do things we don’t mean out of anger in times of great frustration or sadness. Yet, every time we are in a dispute with a friend, disagreement with a loved one, or even just having a bad day, it’s so important to remember to pause and take a moment to think about the possible permanent repercussions our actions and words could have on others. It’s only natural that we will have times in the future where we will lose our tempers or be pushed to personal our limits. However, when we find ourselves in those times of great frustration or anger, we must be sure that whatever we say or do in those moments won’t, like the nails hammered in the fence, end up leaving permanent holes in the one’s we love and in relationships important to us that we will never be able never undo.