Nails in the Fence – Author Unknown

Robert Terson

There once was a rather self-centered little boy who had a very bad temper. When he got angry he lashed out and said hurtful things; he had little regard for others, even his few friends. That he had so few friends only proved to him that most people were, at best, foolish, at worst, stupid.

His father was very concerned for his son’s future and thought long and hard about how he could explain to his son why relationships are so important and controlling his temper was a key factor in maintaining those relationships.

After much thought, his father gave him a bag full of nails and told him, “Every time you lose your temper, hammer a nail into the back of the fence; hit those nails as hard as you can!” His son did not understand but knew that his father was a wise man, so he agreed.

On the first day that the boy received his bag of nails he ended up driving 37 nails into the fence. The wood was old and hard as iron, but he kept hammering away. Each day he learned little by little to control his temper. 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. It was quite an accomplishment.

He was very proud of himself and went to share his good news with his father. His Father was very proud of him and offered a challenge to his son. “Why don’t you pull out a nail everyday that you are able to hold your temper.”

As there were many nails in the fence, it took the boy quite a while to remove all the nails from the fence. But eventually the day arrived—they were all gone. He was so pleased with himself and he wanted to share his feelings with his father.

The father was so proud of his son, but he wanted him to understand that holding his temper was more than just being able to add or remove nails from a fence. He took his son’s hand and showed him all the holes that were left from the nails. “As you see, my son, this fence will never be the same; the fence is scarred with the holes from your temper. So it is with people. Think of these holes as the words you have spoken in anger, the wounds you have left in people’s lives. It won’t matter how many times you say you’re sorry, the scars from your words will still be there. Words really are like weapons: they leave a wound that does not heal easily. Always remember the fence before you speak words of anger. We need to always treat others with love and respect; we need to prevent as many of those scars as we can.”


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