The Power of Experiential Metaphor

Updated: May 22

Experiential Metaphor can soften a hardened heart and begin the process of change

Picture source: shereallyheals.com/2016/04/11/nails-in-the-fence/


What our society needs is creative ways to reach out to the younger generations and change them from inside out.



Nails In The Fence

Author Unknown


There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence.


The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.


Finally the day came when the boy didn't lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to 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, my son, 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 this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won't matter how many times you say I'm sorry, the wound is still there."


The little boy then understood how powerful his words were. He looked up at his father and said "I hope you can forgive me father for the holes I put in you."


"Of course I can," said the father.



Reader's Perspective


Stories are great strategies to bring across intended messages to your readers or audience. Whenever we think about nails and fence we will remember this story and the message behind it which is to manage our anger. Metaphors like this help us to understand and remember more effectively.



Doer's Perspective


A 10 year old girl came up to me to thank me; saying that she was inspired.”

What if we make metaphors "come alive"? We plan activities for participants to experience and guide them in reflections after the activities ... just like what the father did intentionally for his son to learn about anger management. The outcome will be greater than simply reading the story.


I will not forget the time when I went to a private inclusive school in Jakarta to conduct a post movie screening activity involving the students to fold a paper booklet and talk to a partner. I was bringing across the message "not to judge a book by its cover" to them. While waiting for out transport to arrive at the front porch in the school, a 10 year old girl came up to me to thank me; saying that she was inspired!

Experiential Metaphor for Character Development


Yes, metaphors are used in Languages and Sciences but they are just as an effective strategy to help people to understand certain concepts or beliefs and to create the "AHA!" moment when they realise they should make a change in their lives.

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