Thursday, April 26, 2012

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 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. Make sure you control your temper the next time you are tempted to say something you will regret later.
- Author Unknown -

Not too long ago, I was feeling pretty darned burnt out, more than I realized. Hubby and I had a few words, and I ended up saying some things I immediately regretted. It was really my first time losing control like that, and I couldn't believe those words came out of my mouth. He was deeply hurt, and I told him how sorry I was, but the wound was already there. Each day when I came home from work, I'd try to draw him into conversation, but although he was civil, he was distant, and I began to wonder if maybe I had gone to far, that maybe the wound was too deep to heal.

When we were children one of our favorite sayings was:

Sticks and stones will break my bones, 
but names will never hurt me.

How wrong we were! Names will always hurt us. Bruises and broken bones may heal, but hurtful words will stay with us, sometimes for a lifetime. Anger is a natural emotion all people feel. However, using mean words or hurting others when we're angry is never okay. Losing one's temper and saying mean things will only hurt others and maybe even end friendships. I think that not many persons mean to hurt others. Some people have a habit of saying things innocently, without thinking that such comments might hurt others' feelings. 

For example, I work with a woman who has the personality of a 'prison guard'. I know it is wrong to stereotype, and if any prison guards should read this, please believe no harm intended.  One day as I was going into my group, she said something about 'Staff being more mindful of the things group members did; ie, charging cell phones, running in and out to the bathroom.'  I don't believe in airing our differences in front of clients, so I sat through the group holding it in.  Afterwards, I approached her and said, 'You really hurt my feelings', and went on to explain how it felt to be reproached by another staff member in front of clients.  She apologized and told me she really hadn't meant any harm.  In fact, she not only hadn't realized she was coming off that way, but it wasn't even meant for me.

I think we've all spoken out of turn at one time or another, and because arguments hurt, apologizing and forgiving is of vital importance. If your hurts are not resolved, they accumulate and eat away at you. In the process, relationships are destroyed. It's hard, especially while in the heat of anger, not to explode and let our words fly unrestrained. But we have to make that conscious effort to think before we speak. By doing so, we will avoid offending others by not flying off the handle and saying things that we later regret.

Fortunately, hubby and I have a strong relationship and it took about a week, but things are back on track.  He has forgiven, but has he forgotten?  That I may never know, but what I do know, and what I did learn from my outburst, is that when you hurt the one you love, you hurt yourself as well.


  1. Very wise words today, Mary. Thank you.

  2. As you said it's natural to experience anger and very few of us, except maybe the Dalai Lami are free of using hurtful words. I"m really impressed that you were able to tell the "prison guard" how hurt you were instead of resorting to anger back to her that you'd later regret. Since anger is part of us, forgiveness is also equally important for growth for ourselves and others and out of that sometimes comes true healing.

  3. Good post and reminder Mary...a few weeks ago, my Daughter came over to borrow some money from me...she burst into the house, interrupts the conversation I was having with a friend who was sitting there, my friend says hello to my Daughter, my Daughter ignored her, like she was in such a hurry she couldn't be bothered.
    What struck me was her rudeness, her lack of manners for my company, and the million and oneth time I've told her I'm not a bank. She is horrible with her money and I used to rescue her all of the time, but I had to establish bounderies with her and she doesn't like it, and most of the time ignores it. Well, I got so upset I told her off for doing what she did and she walked away after grabbing the money I swore I wasn't going to give her. Long story short, I called and apologized for losing my temper in front of my friend and embarrasing her and I've not heard from her since. I feel badly, but I also still feel she needs to learn some restraint so I don't or haven't run after her persuing this issue. Until she can come around of her own volition, she won't be in a position to hear my apology anyway? So yes, sticks and stones thing does not work. Words can cut to the core of us and more times than we think can really set someone back and even damage self-esteem.
    So glad you posted this today...we all need to be reminded now and then to put our best intentions forward.

  4. So agree....hurtful words pollute the soul like the pollution to our universe.
    Lasts a lifetime and then some.