A young man was struggling in his relationships with other people. He had a tendency to fly off the handle when things did not go his way. In an effort to improve himself, he went to see his mentor for advice. The mentor suggested that after every time the young man lashed out at someone, he should hammer a nail into a board. The young man followed this advice. Everyday he was hammering less nails than the previous day.
After a few weeks, he realized that he didn’t hammer any nails on the board. He went back to his mentor and told him, “I’m not hammering nails anymore. I quit arguing with everybody.” At this point, his mentor told him, “Very good! Now, every time you have a chance to repair a relationship with someone that you argued with before, you have to remove one of the nails from the board.”
Again, the young man followed the mentor’s advice. A few weeks later, he approached his mentor and said, “I have followed your advice and I have removed all the nails from the board. I repaired all the good relationships with everyone I had an argument with before. In the last few weeks I have become less callous to my colleagues, but they are cold to me. Why have they not accepted that I have changed?”
“No!” replied the young man, “It still has all of the holes in it.”
“Exactly!” answered the mentor.
“When you are harsh to people it is like driving a nail into the board. It hurts. When you decide to pull the nail back with an apology or simple gesture of kindness, there is still a scar left from the first deed. It takes time for things to heal.”