“There was once a young boy with a terrible temper. He used to speak harshly and get angry many times a day, at the slightest provocation. His wise father told him that every time he got angry he had to hammer a nail into the wood fence in the backyard.

The first day the boy hammered forty-five nails into the fence – practically his entire day was spent in the backyard. The next day, with his arm sore from hammering, he tried to get angry less. He hammered only twenty-five nails into the fence the second day. By the end of a few weeks, the boy proudly went to his dad and told him that he had not gotten angry at all that day. So, the boy’s father told him that now he could start removing the nails from the fence.

There were two ways that nails could be removed: either if the boy could go an entire day without getting mad, or if the boy apologized sincerely to someone whom he had hurt through his anger. So, the boy began to apologize to people whom he had wounded and he tried hard not to get angry. Slowly, the nails began to get pulled out of the fence.

One day, the boy proudly went to his dad and told him that all the nails were out of the fence, and that his anger was ‘a thing of the past.’ His dad then led the boy to the fence and showed him how the fence was now riddled with holes. It was no longer the sturdy, strong fence it once had been. It was now weakened and damaged. Every time the wind blew strongly the fence swayed in the wind, for it was so full of holes that the breeze caused the fence to move. ‘Do you see that?’ the father asked the boy. ‘For you, anger is a thing of the past. Yet, this fence will never recover. Every time you get angry at someone, it is like driving a nail into them. You may later remove the nail, but the hole is still there. The effect of your anger cannot be removed.’

In life sometimes, it is easy to get angry, easy to yell, easy to hit those we love. We assuage our own consciences by saying, ‘She made me mad,’ or, “He made me hit him.’ But, whose hand is it really that hits? Whose mouth is it really that speaks harsh words?

We think, ‘It’s no big deal. I said sorry.’ For us, it may be that easy. But remember the fence is still sitting there with a hole in it, even though you have moved on. If you hammer enough nails into someone, eventually they will be forever weakened, forever damaged. You can stab someone with a knife and then pull out the knife, but the blood will continue to pour. ‘Sorry’ does not stop the blood of wounds. It may pave the way to recovery, but the wound is still there.

The goal in life should be to be like water – a stone falls in and only causes a ripple for a moment. The ‘hole’ in the water caused even by a large boulder does not last for more than a few seconds.

When we get hit – verbally, physically or emotionally – we should be like the water. We should be able to just let the ripples flow and, within a few moments, it should look as though nothing happened.

We must remember that our loved ones are like wood. Therefore, we must try to be very, very careful before we hammer holes into anyone. If there are too many holes, the fence will fall.”

– H.H. Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji