Lately, these words to live by have been popping up in my mind: Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…..

I’ve heard this interpretation: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear.

Perhaps I’m finding fault with others around me and wanting to see these words in their living and breathing form, rather than nice mantras to repeat. Maybe if I want this to happen, I should live it first so that it can be reflected back….or is that not how it works? So far, so bad.

The same night the anger that existed in me had reached it’s climax, I went to bed reading a few blogs and came across this anonymous, therapeutic story:

“There was a little boy with a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, to hammer a nail in the back fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Then it 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. A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one.”

What struck a chord within me was the fact that this tiny human did something active with every opportunity with the purpose in mind of changing his behavior. Then, once the behavior was changed, he could heal and restore what something once was.

AND he also saw with his eyes a visual representation of the emotional detriments he created and ALSO worked to repair. There was nothing passive about learning this life lesson for the boy. He didn’t learn how to control his temper by accident or continual reprimands. He was disciplined in a way that was compassionate and life-giving and understanding.

He also discovered empathy. He felt something that changed his relationships from fights for power to actively participating in love and understanding. I often feel like I’m the powerless one when it comes to interactions with anger hurled in my direction. I feel immensely wounded. I retreat. I walk away. I hide. I shut up. I feel paralyzingly sad that this communication is so life-draining. The angry person sure can’t feel better after those words they just said. And I sure don’t feel peachy keen. It makes me feel like anger is like a cement. It isn’t easily changed or malleable. It can only be broken apart with some serious-meaning tool. And I don’t feel like I’ve got some sledgehemmer in my emotional toolbox to break it down with. So I feel helpless. I want it to change, I want it fixed, because I am too tired of being emotionally pummeled. It’s not cool.


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