I once saw a tree trunk cut into round discs piled on top of each other like a stack of poker chips. At the top I could see a dark grey patch in the wood, about half-way between the perimeter and the centre of the wood. The sawmill worker explained someone had hit two nails into the tree years before. Looking at the age of the tree and the location of the nails he guessed maybe, 30 years before. The tree had then continued to grow around the nails and bury them deep into its trunk. On first appearance no-one would have known the nails were there. In fact, if he had cut just a few millimetres higher he wouldn’t have known either. Unfortunately for him, though, the nails snagged the blade of his saw as he cut through the trunk.
Those two nails stopped him in his tracks and caused serious damage. He had no idea they were there, he couldn’t see them. The tree had continued to grow around them but was forever compromised. Years later, this unsuspecting stranger started to cut into the tree to find that there was obstruction, a foreign object embedded where it shouldn’t have been. It was ugly, out of place and probably took quite a bit of force to be pushed there in the first place. Those nails damaged the tree then, and continued to cause damage 30 years later.
It occurs to me that this is a little like offence. When someone bangs a nail or two into your bark, either maliciously or unintentionally, what do you do? Notice the question here. I am not asking: “Has this ever happened to you?” The question is: “What did you do when it did?”
Did you bury it deep or yank it out?
I wonder if we’re tempted to get comfortable with offence. We carry it around with us and allow the damage to continue day after day, year after year. We take it out, give it a good polish, re-examine it, remind the person that offended us and everyone else about it and then put it back in our pocket again for a later date. If we’re not careful we can start to accrue an entire arsenal of offences which are damaging, limiting and toxic to ourselves and those in our world around us.
I often ask myself: “What Does It Matter?” in order to be able to move on, forgive and yank those nails out as quickly as possible.