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Nailed To The TreeInsightful Parenting Story: Nails In The Tree


Anger hurts, but you can choose to not get angry.


An angry boy learns anger management by driving nails in a tree

Previous TaleTown Story: Mule In The Well

"Don't be an angry young man, like I was," advised Rosh. "The price we have to pay for our anger is too high."

"But I can't control it, Pa," pleaded Josh. "In the heat of the moment, I just can't think straight."

"It is difficult to control," agreed Rosh, "but not impossible. Recognize the rising anger, and do something about it."

"Most times it just flares up," Josh objected. "Too fast for a pre-meditated response. Then, all I want to do is swear. Or bash someone!"

"Do that then," smiled Rosh. "Get it out of your system. But doing that has ugly consequences. Or, you can reprogram your system to doing something else."

"It doesn't matter what. It is the doing that is important. Do something. Anything. And keep doing that, whenever you get angry. Program an anger response in yourself."

"Like what?" asked Josh.

"Lock your hands behind your back," Rosh replied. "Or walk away. Or breathe deeply. Or start picking leaves. Or fold your earlobe with a finger. Or start laughing."

"Anything. Even something stupid. Whether you drive nails in a tree, or drive yourself up a wall - when you get angry, the choice is entirely yours... "

"Drive nails in a tree?" Josh was perplexed.

“I once read a story," Rosh explained, "about a bad-tempered little boy. One day, his father gave him a bag of nails, and said, “Every time you lose your temper, go drive a new nail into that Oak tree. Hammer away at it, till you've let all your anger out."

"That wasn't a very good thing to teach, Pa," said Josh. "Instead of hurting people, he'd be hurting a tree. Trees can feel pain too, you know. "

"Yes, son," Rosh agreed. "Many people in many cultures believe in Plant Perception. Also called Bio- Communication, it is a belief that plants are sentient and can experience pain. Some scientists dismiss this idea on the grounds that plants lack a nervous system. But let us discuss that another day."

"The decision to hurt a tree may have been a bad one, but better that the child learn by hurting a tree, than by hurting a person. Verbal wounds are as bad as physical ones, you know, although you can't see them. The father wanted to show his son, what hurting does to others."

"A mature Oak is almost as tough as iron. So, hammering a nail in wouldn't have been as easy for the little boy, as it sounds. Nevertheless, by the end of the first day, the angry young man had driven over a dozen nails into the Oak. The Oak’s wounds bled sap from his merciless beatings.”

"Over the next few weeks, each time he went over to drive a nail in the Oak, he became more and more aware of his anger. Awareness reduced his urge to let go, and the number of nails he hammered daily eventually reduced."

"Finally, one day, the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. Proudly, he announced to his father that he was now rid of his anger."

"You have made great progress, son," said his father. "But you're not there yet."

"He suggested that the boy now pull out one nail, for each day that he was able to hold his temper for the whole day."

"This proved more difficult, as pulling a nail out is harder than hammering it in."

Pulling one nail out per day, when he had hammered dozens in daily, also made this leg of his coaching longer.

Months passed, but the day came when the boy declared to his father with a sense of great accomplishment, that all the nails were finally out of the tree.

Silently, the father took his son by the hand, and led him back. Reaching the Oak, he said, “Look carefully at the tree, my boy, and tell me what you see."

The boy looked at the holes he had made in the tree. Some had begun healing and were filling up, but others where he had pounded the nails hard in, were badly scarred.

He suddenly discovered that he had no voice. He looked up at the mighty Oak, which stood towering above him. Silently, it had endured this long unnecessary punishment. Silently, it had bled for his enlightenment.

He looked up into its foliage, reaching high into the clouds, and felt afraid. The tree was strong, majestic and powerful. It had the power to crush him with the fall of a single branch. Yet, despite its sheer strength, it had endured all the pain and abuse soundlessly.

"Time will heal most of its wounds," his father was saying, "but it will never be the same. Saying or doing hurtful things in anger leaves the same kind of scars, as you have given this tree."

"So, build bridges with your words, not barriers. Heal with them, not hurt. Words, like the elements, have great power. Wield them with caution; temper them with compassion, lest they rip the souls asunder like a dagger.”

“When all is said and done, it doesn’t matter how many times you say you’re sorry, or how many years pass. The scars remain even when all the wounds have healed. So, be careful little lips - of what you say. For you don't want to end up chasing friends away."

“Relationships are like trees too. They need love, attention and communication to care for, nurture, and feed them. You need to water them with understanding and empathy, and then they grow tall and strong like this majestic Oak. They become resilient and deep-rooted, and they stand the tests of time.”

The son hugged his father with his new found understanding, then looked up at him through misted eyes, and whispered, “Forgive me Pa, for the holes I put in you.”

"Already did, my son," the father replied. "With time, I hope our Oak and I, will both also lose our scars."

The boy turned to the Oak and hugged as much of it as he could, with his little arms. A single tear rolled down his cheeks, as he walked away.

The little drop of water fell on an acorn, which lay nestled in the damp earth under the canopy of the surrounding trees. As the tear hit the acorn, it tapped awake a symphony asleep in the tiny shell. New life had begun.

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