Ability to use energy creatively

Matt was a nice enough guy. He enjoyed his friends and family and, mostly, they enjoyed him. I say "mostly" because sometimes Matt could get really angry. If things didn't go quite his way, he could shout and scream at people. He would slam doors, push other kids around, or throw things that happened to be near him. His mom and dad had long said things like, "You'd better learn to control that temper, young man, or one day you will get into real trouble." Now Matt was noticing that some of his friends at school tended to be avoiding him more and more. The more he got angry, the less they wanted to spend time with him.

This worried Matt. He liked his friends. He didn't want to lose them but he didn't know what to do about it. He had always been like this. Try as he might, at times things would build up like a volcano until he erupted. Matt felt it was outside his control. What could he do?

One Saturday morning his dad came home from the hardware store and said, "Matt, I've got a present for you." Out of the shopping bag he pulled a brand-new hammer and bag ofbig, shiny nails. He got an old baked-bean can and tipped the nails into the empty container. Handing Matt the brand-new hammer and can of nails, he said, "Every time you get angry, go outside and hammer a nail into the wooden fence that runs down the side of the house."

At first, Matt thought his old man must be going crazy or something. Perhaps he'd been under too much pressure at work, but Matt gave a shrug. He had tried everything else, why not do what his father had said?

Each time he got angry at home he went and hammered a nail in the side fence. If he got angry at school he'd remember how many times he'd lost his temper and as soon as he got home he'd go and hammer the appropriate number of nails into the fence.

Soon Matt found the task of hammering the nails in got boring. He didn't like having to keep track of all the times he got angry and then go out into the shed, gather the nails and hammer, walk over to the fence, and pound in a few more nails, particularly if it was cold and raining. Surprisingly, Matt found that he was getting less and less angry. It was easier, in fact, to control his temper than to remember the times he hadn't, then go and hammer another nail in the fence. After a week of not having to face up to the fence, even on one single occasion, he proudly went and told his dad.

"Good," said his dad. "I'm pleased to hear it. Now, every day you have without losing your temper, I want you to go and remove one of those nails you hammered in the fence."

The days went by, and the nails came out one at a time, but somewhere in the task of removing them, Matt noticed that they were leaving holes. The wood sprung back around some of the holes, closing them up a little, while others stayed the full size of the nail. Matt became concerned about the gaps that remained even after he'd removed the nails.

When he told his dad, his dad said, "That's a bit like what happens when we get angry. Anger can hurt and sometimes it leaves a wound or a scar that people remember long after the anger has passed."

Matt thought about his dad's words over the next few days. He didn't like the fact that he'd left holes in the fence. Every time he walked by he could see the wounds that remained from his actions. The next weekend he asked his dad for some putty and filled up all the holes in the fence, but he could still see where they'd been. Matt wanted to fix what he'd done, so he asked his dad if he could paint the fence next weekend.

"What color would you like to use?" asked his dad. Matt had several ideas. He could paint the fence all one color, paint each picket a different color, or do a mural over the whole fence. Perhaps he could have a fence-painting party, inviting his friends around to do some graffiti art. As he considered it, he discovered there were many things he could do that might change what he had done to the fence. This, thought Matt, is a lot more fun than hammering in nails.

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