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.”
Did your mom ever use the phrase, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all”?
Well mine did. A lot.
And now I even naggingly say it to my friends. Just ask them.
But it wasn’t until I read, and then quickly reread, the above short story that the old proverb really sunk in.
Sometimes I say things… Things that are meant to be funny, or things that I think and just don’t really care to keep bottled up inside me. Sometimes I am, for a lack of a better term, apathetic.
It used to be more of a humorous thing; a defense mechanism, even.
But lately I’ve realized that each relationship in my life is a lot like the fence in the story, and a fence can only take so many tiny wedges being driven through it before it falls apart.
So if I commit to say 10 nice things to people I care for each day, will you commit with me?
And if I commit to be better about holding my tongue when I really want to say something that might leave a mark, will you do it too?
Little by little, if we all work together, we can avoid future scars, mend broken fences, and help time heal all wounds.