The Angry Fence
There once was a boy with a bad temper. He wanted to learn how to control himself but was having great difficulty. He asked his father for help. His father gave him a bag of nails and a hammer and told him that every time he lost his temper he should go hammer a nail into their fence in the backyard. On the first day, the boy drove a whopping 37 nails into the fence! Then, it gradually dwindled down to just one or two trips to the fence per day. The boy discovered that it was easier for him to hold his temper than to drive nails into the fence. Eventually, the day came when the boy didn't lose his temper at all. He excitedly told his father about it. He had made real progress and was learning to control his anger quite well.

The father then suggested that the boy pull out one nail for each day he was able to hold his temper. Many months passed and the boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails had been removed. He was quite proud of his accomplishment and personal growth. He was very good at controlling himself now.

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." He went on to explain, "When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one (gesturing to a hole that a nail had left). If you cut someone with a knife, the wound will be there for some time--no matter how many times you say you're sorry. A verbal wound is often as bad (or worse) than a physical one because it takes longer to heal. In fact, verbal wounds sometimes never heal completely."

This story illustrates several truths from God's word.

First, Paul described "outbursts of wrath" as a work of the flesh, and "those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal. 5:20,21). Having a bad temper is not just a personality flaw, it is a sin that can separate one from the Lord for all eternity! I hope you comprehend the seriousness of this subject matter and approach it accordingly.

Second, dealing with feelings of anger and rage is a difficult struggle for many people on a regular basis, but it can be overcome. If you are someone who has a tendency to blow up when problems arise, or if you get exasperated easily, you must decide to work toward being more self-controlled. This will not be easy, but it all starts with a commitment to making personal improvement in this area.

Third, if you have the desire to become more self-disciplined, request strength and a patient spirit from the heavenly Father daily. He is able to help us become better servants for Him (cf. Phil. 4:13). We can change for the better--if we want to! When you do lose control and manifest an outburst of anger, keep track of those offenses (perhaps by hammering nails into your fence or maybe by simply keeping a log). In either case, analyze what circumstances and individuals seem to cause you to lose your temper. Is there any pattern? It may be wise to remove yourself from these difficult situations (if possible) and avoid people or places that are likely to cause you to sin in this way.

Finally, remembering that our sinful words and actions have long-term consequences (even if we are forgiven by our fellow man and God), ought to cause us to be more careful in all that we say and do. When we carelessly scar others with our actions and speech, our relationships with them will never quite be the same. Yes, we can be forgiven from our explosions of anger, but the cause of Christ is much better served if we quench these outbursts and fiery feelings before we ever need to seek forgiveness from our fellow man and the Lord.