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Paul Hayden

37 Nails - Speaking about Speaking

November 30, 2020

Read the following story from an unknown author. Enjoy it and employ it.

There was a 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 the nail incidents gradually dwindled. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive nails into the fence.

Finally, the day came when the boy stopped losing his temper. He told his father about it. The father then suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day he held his temper. The days passed, and the young boy could finally 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 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 on this fence. It won't matter how many times you tell the fence you are sorry; the wound is still there. 

That is quite an illustration. Have you ever said something to another and then mentally chased the words as the words out of your mouth? I sure have. It’s like my words came out of my mouth in slow motion. I was thinking, “Come back words, come back." But once those words left my mouth, I couldn’t take them back. A verbal wound can be as harmful as a physical wound. The results can be devastating to us and others. 

Here’s some advice for controlling this issue. You won’t have to watch what you say if you watch what you think. Here's another thought. Sometimes you have to say what you mean, but that doesn’t give you the right to be mean when you say it. Enough said!

That little tongue of ours can be used for good and not so good at the same time. Words have the power to heal or hurt; to help or hinder; to build up or tear down; to bless or curse; to speak the truth or speak lies; to love or hate; to ruin reputation or release potential. Words set on fire the course of our lives and the lives of others, either positively or negatively.

The illustration above points out that time or even asking for forgiveness can take out the nails, but the scars are still there. We all have been both the perpetrator of hurtful words and the victim of hurtful words. Likewise, we have built up others and been built up by others by words said in a better way because we resisted our impulse to emote rather than promote.

If we don’t want to spend our time pulling nails out fences caused by offenses and fixing holes in the fences we created, let’s speak the truth in love, not with a glove or a shove.

Here’s a great example of a football coach who learned the power of speaking life words rather than death words. The coach was John McKay of the University of Southern California. His son was a successful football player for the University of Southern California. When an interviewer asked Coach McKay to comment on how proud he felt over his son's accomplishments, here is what he said: "Yes, I'm am pleased that John Jr. had a good season this year. He does a fine job, and I am proud of him. But I would be just as proud of him if he never played a game at all."

In other words, his son would not lose his father's respect if the next year brought failure and disappointment. His place in his father's heart was secure and not tied to his performance. As a result of this, McKay would not be blabbing to the press about his son's poor performance if that happened. That’s the kind of love, commitment, and verbal awareness we all could use for speaking life into awkward or intense situations.

Unfortunately, in today's world, it seems that many visible leaders are using words more to curse than bless, to tear down than build up. Don’t allow what's on the outside of you, get inside of you. Why? The example we see can be the example that we become. Don’t let that happen to you. Now that you have read this article, why don’t you become an example for them? Be a sample of a better example.

Let’s consider a verse in the Bible that sums up the article for this week perfectly. “Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.” Eph. 4:31.

Why did I write this article today? It’s easy. Human beings and fish are both alike. They both get into trouble when they open their mouths. Thus, saith the 37 nails speaking about speaking.

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Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
Visit Ed Delph's website at www.nationstrategy.com