This is my garden, which I call Friendship. It features all my friends, from my treasured inner circle to casual comrades. Its a spectacular event. I say event because gardens of any relationships are a constantly changing work of nature, part in, and part beyond, our control.
Some parts of the garden are old and deeply cherished, they form the core, the centerpieces. I spend most of my time here. Established and reliable, the old friends here require little maintenance but we must watch they aren’t taken for granted. They periodically feature exciting new growth which should be closely watched. When a friend flowers or sends out new shoots, we don’t want to miss it! They don’t want us too either.
When caring for our relationship with a friend, it is important to remember that we can never see an entire friend at once. To fully appreciate a friend, we must become aware of all their facets and dimensions. We must bear in mind the memory of our first impression, then step carefully around to enjoy other points of view. We can’t get stuck in the past, we have to watch how they grow and appreciate the friend for who they are ‘now’ as much as ‘then’, and think about what they’re becoming.
Most of all, we must try to see them the way they see themselves, and the way they see the world. This helps us understand them, which is vital for the relationship to have any real strength. It is also important to recognize that our relative position in relation to a friend will change because we are each always growing, always in motion, both independently and as a result of our relationship. The care we invest influences how we each grow.
Sometimes the friends of my garden are sunshine and smiles. Other times they are drooping down with sadness. The former need us, the latter need us even more, though they may not realize it at the time. The Garden of Friendship is something we must invest in on a regular basis. We must give it support and lend our strength. To do that, we must see ourselves as Gardeners. Being an active friend who invests in others must be part of our identity. When it is, we make decisions in our lives that naturally reinforce that identity and produce positive results based on it.
Be careful. Even our relationships with the friends closest to us will slowly die if abused or neglected. Many people make the mistake of spending all their time focused on themselves. Or in the Gardens of Love and Family. Don’t push Friendship to the back, don’t make it less important. Our lives require balance. Friendship has an important and vital place in a healthy lifestyle. Believe me, ignore your Garden of Friendship and it will shrivel up and all the relationships will die off. Many are unrecoverable. We are left lonelier and lesser for it. Starting a whole new garden again is very difficult.
Beyond the inner circle are other friends whom we don’t spend as much time with, but still value. Other friends in the garden are fresh and new. They are easily spoiled and that fragility demands delicate care if they are to grow into something splendid. Again, take heed. Spending all our time in any one part of the garden causes neglect in others. New friends are the most easily lost and therefore demanding. They can seem exciting, especially when we’re young and learning. But being a social butterfly always on the lookout for new additions to the garden can lead to core relationships going dry, or festering with a rot of resentment when investment in the relationship is going only one way for too long.
The center of the garden is usually the brightest and most lively. But even in the healthiest gardens there are darker corners and even unsightly sores on our favourite friends. We don’t like to visit these places much, once they appear. We try to convince ourselves these blights don’t exist by lying to ourselves or avoiding them and hoping they clear up on their own. They won’t. In these places our relationships have become infested with diseases like Guilt, Jealousy, the Sense of Inferiority, Competition and it’s partner Comparison, and worst of all – Selfishness. Left unchecked, they will only worsen, poisoning the friend, and ourselves.
We can rid ourselves of the darker spots. This garden has no walls, no insurmountable obstacles and there are no limits. The only barriers to the beauty, support and mutual growth here are the limits we place on our own perception and action. This may be due to our naiveté, inexperience, prejudice, or lack of faith. It may be because we’re lacking in the skills needed to maintain our garden, but these are mastered with practice and study. Many diseases tend to sprout from our own weaknesses and mistakes. These are correctable. Curing diseases comes from being willing to face them and ourselves honestly. Communication is key. Follow it with action.
Like it or not, the past has an effect on the present. Salt water, like that of tears, can damage the soil and make it harder for friendships to thrive. Sometimes a friend is gone forever. Lucky for us though, if we are diligently strong we can remove the old and start fresh. We can revitalize the foundations of growth. When old relationships pass on, new ones can be formed.
It is always hard to start again after so much effort was put into previous growth, but we mustn’t let that stop us, we must embrace the thrill of challenge. It takes a brave heart to plant new seeds of friendship and give love all over again, to put faith in the relationship and give it trust in the wake of tragedy. But we have, hopefully, wisdom gained from past mistakes to help. Vary the conditions, perhaps it needs more nourishment, perhaps it needs more independence, but the first place we should always look for improvement is with ourselves. It’s always the first and wisest investment and it pays off for everyone.
Everyone’s garden is different. Some are larger than others, and all overlap other gardens to varying degrees. Some are healthy and brim with beautiful, vigorous style. Some gardeners seek only the company of a few seemingly un-noteworthy yet hardy individuals and have relationships that, for a long while, struggled to survive, but have now established themselves and can never die. Sometimes the soil is naturally lush and almost anything will grow well. Sometimes it takes a very special species to take root.
Whatever the case, our Gardens of Friendship undoubtably make life brighter and more interesting. They’re worth our time. Budgeting a significant portion of our time with our friends leads to happier, healthier, more productive lives in all areas. Who knows when we’ll want a friend for support at a crucial moment? Who knows what new opportunities a friend might pass along? And then there’s the sheer joy of simply being there for our friends. Investment is its own reward.
Neglect your Garden of Friendship at your peril. The next time you find yourself near your own garden, step inside for a bit. If you’ve been away a long time, your Garden of Friendship is probably in need of you. Say hi to your favorites and approach the ones you haven’t spent much time with recently. Let them know that you still care, that you’re still here for them and that they’re important to you. See if a little attention can open up a new flower bud. Watch it bloom and see the beauty inside. Every flower is unique. So is every friend.
Our relationships nurture us as much as we share with them. The fruits they produce are amongst the sweetest to be tasted and the wisdom to be harvested is priceless. Also remember, as others have planted roots in your garden, you no doubt have planted roots in theirs. Never forget your roots.
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