Friday, July 31, 2015

The Garden of Friendship

Like my grandfather and my father, I am a gardener. I have fond memories of working with my grandfather in his garden as I was growing up.  My grandfather was my hero.  As a child I idolized him and looked up to him as the most important figure in my life.  In so many ways I strove to be like him.  

As an adult I maintain his love of gardening.  I go out after work and ‘play’ in my garden.  I work the soil.  I weed.  I pick the fruits and vegetables.  I try to find new ways to keep pests from it, without killing beneficial insects.  I worry about it.  I pray it grows.  As crazy as it sounds I touch my plants gently and talk with them.  Ultimately, I glean happiness from the harvest of my labors.  

Now, why don’t I do that with all my friendships?  I need to start treating my friendships like I do my garden.  As I see it, there are only two things we take with us from this earth: our knowledge/memories, and our relationships with others.  I love my plants, but the time and effort I put into them shouldn’t overshadow what I give to my friendships and relationships.   

friendships, like plants have basic needs.  When those needs are met they survive.  But survival is not the same as flourishing or thriving.  Living in the desert gives a new appreciation to plants surviving versus plants thriving.  If you throw enough water at the plant it will likely survive, but in its survival, you will see a lot of weakness and stunted growth.  

In order to make a plant flourish - especially a non-native plant in the desert - it takes a lot of work and care.  You must first prepare the soil.   The soil might need to be different depending on the plant.  for a cactus the soil should be very different than for garden vegetables.  I need to make sure the soil is fertilized and then well watered.  As the seedlings sprout, I watch them like a hawk - literally - I don’t want predators destroying the young and very weak plant. As the plant grows and becomes more mature, it takes less time and effort, but just the same there is effort involved.  If you want it to flourish you need to continue to provide correct amounts of water, fertilizer, sun and shade. Too much or too little of anything will cause weakness in the plant.

So what are some ways I have found to help a friendship thrive?

Communication is one.   Make an effort to communicate with more than just the occasional message.  And when communicating, make an effort to engage in the conversation with that person.  Too many times we are with someone but in communication with our mobile devices than the person we are with at that moment. I know if someone is more interested in what social media says than what I am saying when I am sitting across from them, it feels like they don’t really want to be with me.

Honesty and openness in who you are in a friendship is paramount.  Sometimes, when you are getting to know each other, it may seem scary to be honest.  Of course it is important to use tact, but setting your expectations and boundaries in a healthy manner is very important.  My new favorite phrase is, ‘I’d rather have someone hate me for who I am than love me for who I’m not’.  I feel that we mask our true selves from those whom we consider friends and then too often we feel our true selves can never be revealed because they know the ‘other’ person we are.  Some might say this is being vulnerable.

Allow them to make mistakes and/or do things differently than you do.  Just like a plant that may grow in a way that you don’t like, so our friends may do something that we don’t like.  Just because they don’t do things the way we would do them doesn’t make them wrong, or need to result in your unfriending them.  True friendship deserves to have allowances for the other’s ways.  

Let’s start out friendships with honesty and healthy vulnerability. Let’s make communication sincere.  Don’t be afraid to be who you are around them.  Those who are truly your friends will cherish you for who you are!  This is what makes relationships thrive!

Jim




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