There once was a Knight who traveled a long distance to find a Sage who lived deep in the forest far away from the civilized world. After searching for weeks, he found the cave where the wise man was purported to live.

The Knight approached the wise man and asked this question: “Wise master, tell me, what are heaven and hell really like.”

“Tell me about yourself first,” replied the Sage.

“Well, I’m an officer of the emperor’s elite personal guard, responsible for keeping the emperor safe,” he answered.

“Nonsense!” the wise man retorted. “You look too short and scrawny to be of any use to the emperor.

“What kind of emperor would trust you to protect his life? You are nothing but a fibbing fool.”

The Knight quickly became infuriated by the insults of the Sage. He reached for his sword and walked closer to the old man.

“Oh my,” exclaimed the Sage. “Because you are offended by my words, you draw your sword and wish to cut off my head.”

At this point, the Knight could not hold back any longer.

Sword in hand, he was about to strike the Sage when he heard the wide man calmly say, “Now you know half the answer. You are opening the gates of hell.”

Humbled by the words of the Sage, the Knight stopped in his tracks, lowered his sword and bowed his head in respect.

“Now you know the other half,” said the Sage, “You just opened the gates of heaven.”

At the end of the day, many of us remark, “Today was one hell of a day.”

At the end of the day, many of us can also say, “Today was filled with blessings.”

If harsh words provoke you to the point of action, you can be like the Sage and choose to teach someone a lesson. If you do, don’t leave out the second part.

The Sage pushed the Knight’s button and was about to get one hell of a lesson, but the Knight was stopped dead in his tracks by the calm manner in which the Sage chose to point out the consequences of his actions.

When I was a justice of the peace, my presence would often be requested to mediate disputes between individuals.

I would listen to each side of the story to determine if a warrant needed to be issued as a consequence of unlawful action. My first inclination was to try and settle the dispute without having anyone arrested.

One particular night, I received a call from the Sheriff’s Office asking me to meet a deputy at the police station to help untangle a sticky situation.

As I arrived, I was met by the deputy who anxiously stated, “I don’t envy you. This is one hell of a mess we have here.”

As it turns out, the deputy could not have been more correct.

I walked into the building to witness people representing both sides of the conflict shouting at each other, blaming the other side and defending their right to protect themselves when attacked.

To acknowledge the seriousness of the matter, I asked, in a calm manner, “What in the hell is going on here and who in the hell is responsible?”

Recognizing the weight of the office, proper respect was granted and the hell-raisers settled down.

Next, the two principals responsible for opening the gates of hell gave their side of the story. Now it was time to see if they were willing to open the gates of heaven.

The answer was yes. Each one saw something in themselves that they did not like. They saw an ugly side of themselves that made them stop in their tracks.

What I did that night was to simply be a sage by pointing out they created a living hell that night, but also giving them the opportunity to stop and focus on peace.

The people involved re-established the respect they had for the judicial system, then for each other, which enabled them to work toward reconciliation.

Every day we are faced with people who push our buttons. Someone will respond, “To hell with you and the horse you rode in on.”

Someone will respond, “I’ll pray for you. This is totally out of character. God bless you.”

The question is, “Will we be someone who “gives ’um hell” or the person who gives them a little “taste of heaven” on Earth?