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. It takes time and care to heal. The deeper the wound, the more care and time it will take.”
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.
As the boy looked at the fence, and the holes he had made, he realized something.
“But dad, this fence can’t heal itself. How do we fill the holes? How can I make the fence whole again?”
“Son, even if we fill them, the holes will still be there. But there is a principle that does allow you to make the fence whole again. It takes time, and a lot of work.”
“I want to make the fence whole again. How do I do it?”
The father took the son to the lumber store, and showed him the materials and the tools he needed. When they returned home, he taught his son how to remove the damaged boards, and nail the new ones in place.
Day after day, the young man came to the fence, removing damaged boards, and nailing new ones in place. When some of them were crooked, his father was there to help and correct him.
Finally, the last board was replaced. The young man stood with his father before the fence.
“Well done, my son. You have worked hard, you have taken the time, and now this fence is whole again.”
By words or actions, we cause wounds in ourselves and others. There are “fresh starts” in life, though. There is always healing, and a new beginning, when you are willing to make the effort. Forgiveness comes easy for many people, but the scars of the past require time, care, and work before they are made whole.