is no better place in which to grow-up than your own family.
This is true not just for you, but also for everyone else
in your tribe. The best environment in which to bloom is right
Having said this let me follow-up with an acknowledgement.
Some families are better greenhouses for growing people than
are others. After 55 years of living a somewhat reflective
life, and 30 of those years working with thousands of wonderful
people as a Marriage and Family Therapist, I have learned
some simple lessons about what it takes to create and maintain
a family life that is a great greenhouse for growing people.
The obvious first truth is that it took at
least two people relating to each other for us to have arrived
here at all! Birth parents, in-laws and out-laws, siblings
and cousins, stepparents and more, they are all part of the
immediate environment, the greenhouse, within which we confront
the issues we need to confront in order to grow up.
And most important among those issues is
personal identity. “Who am I?” There is much to
say about you if you are an orchid. If you are a head of lettuce,
that says something else again. Every one of us is someone
unique. We are born with an essential identity, a cluster
of gifts and talents, a composite of traits that will, if
nurtured, help us to find the Divinely inspired purpose and
direction that is ours alone.
The third truth is that good nurturing within
the greenhouse of our family will really help us to grow.
Given the right fertilizers, the right amount of attention,
respect, kindness, and support, and the greenhouse becomes
an environment in which any of us can thrive. Attention, which
is our primary moral activity, stimulates everyone’s
wakefulness. Respect, which mirrors our worth, stimulates
self-validation. Kindness, which avoids damaging us while
simultaneously keeping us safe, stimulates the process of
growing up so that it is more hopeful than painful. Support,
which acknowledges the inevitability of the struggle, stimulates
our potential right through the travails of growth so that
we can become a full-grown Loving Being.
And there will be travails. Once we accept the fact
that growing up is full of travails, we can accept them and
the instructive lessons they bring to us. Struggle, frustration,
and disappointment are the normal conditions in every greenhouse.
It is not the absence of conflict in the greenhouse that necessarily
makes for good growth. Rather, it is the presence of attention,
respect, kindness, and support during times of travail that
helps us to learn what we need to learn so that we can adapt
and change. We know that living systems that don’t adapt
eventually die; failing to learn the lessons that accompany
travails will result in a shriveled life.
Some of those lessons are common among us all. Yes, while
life is full of travail, it is also full of purpose,
communication, intimacy, wonder and delight. We learn that
life will be what we make of it. Yes, some decisions are irrevocable,
while others are not. The list of lessons people have learned
is long indeed. Read the spiritual texts of any great religious
tradition and within them you will find the wisdom literature
left behind by people who have grown up in variety of greenhouses
over the ages. Life within the greenhouse called family is
chock-full of conditions and events and each bears lessons
about Life itself.
The sixth truth is that sometimes family
can become a hothouse. For the first dozen years of my career
I was fairly effective at minimizing the heat in my own greenhouse
and others. Then I learned through time and circumstances
that without heat optimum growth never happens. Yes, too much
heat can wilt and kill, but the right amount of heat can force
tremendous growth and maturity. Some families generate a lot
of heat. Some generate too much, in fact, while others put
out too little. Temperature in the form of temper can be used
to grow within the greenhouse, but it can also kill.
“Love” in the greenhouse, while necessary, can
really complicate the process of growth in many,
many ways. When love is confused with dependency it hides
as fear and is manifested as control. Love, too, can demand
self-examination, and self-sacrifice. Love may, if we let
it, companion the death of our ego. Love can be requited,
and it can be unrequited. The reasons for each are numbered
among the heavens, and are located smack dab in the middle
of our own chosen behaviors. If we say yes to Love we are
certain to experience struggle, frustration, and disappointment.
But we are just as certain to learn their lessons. True love
is never forgotten, not ever. Love may take us somewhere,
and that somewhere might be on a journey away. It might also
take us home.
And home is the greenhouse. Our great grandparents grew up
in one, and our great grandchildren will do likewise. Care
for your greenhouse, and it will care for you, and your family.
It is, after all, the environment in which we grow up and
you especially want help with your “greenhouse,”
make sure you check out
article was originally published in the Healing Garden Journal.
You can locate their website at www.holisticvillage.org.