Human relationships are delicate and complex interactions. They nourish love and joy and feed pain and sorrow. Too often we respond to our relationships passively as if they simply "happen," thereby taking a reactionary role.
But what about the ones we inherited?
■ Do we have say?
■ Do we have power?
■ Can we alter those relationships?
The answer to these questions is YES! But only if you choose an active role and seed COURAGE:
■ Commitment — to nurture the relationship as a separate entity
■ Ownership — in creating the nature of the relationship
■ Understanding — that loving and healthy relationships require trust, respect and effort
■ Responsibility — for how you think, feel and behave in the relationship
■ Aboveboard — with honest and straightforward communication at all times
■ Generous — amount of give and take fertilized by compromise and healthy boundaries
■ Embrace — what is by accepting that which you cannot change and transforming what you can
Throughout our lives we have many relationships: friends, colleagues, partners, children, spouses, siblings and grandchildren. Some naturally flourish, many come and go, and others we cannot shed. But in all cases, we can employ these six leader-friendly gardening practices:
. Be nonjudgmental
. Do not enable
. Use empathy
. Prune gossip
. Eliminate blame
. Eradicate victimization
The truth is, we can divorce a spouse, end a friendship, dissolve a work relationship or quit speaking to a sibling — but we cannot rid ourselves of a parent/child relationship. Even if we cease all interactions or the person is no longer alive, the implicit bond that exists remains regardless. So the only option is to transform our view of the relationship.
Our familial relationships are at the root of our power or loss thereof. We began to learn how to interact in relationships at the moment of birth. Those early relationships taught us how to function positively or negatively in our human interactions and seeded our ego — the belief about who we are and what life is about.
In adulthood, to alter any negative relationship patterns you have acquired takes courage, practice and emotional completion. If you choose to thrive, you must set your childhood ego aside and no longer blame your failed relationships on family, others or past/current life circumstances.
You are the one common factor in all your relationships. If you experience repeated relationship problems, only you have the power to look for the patterns, sort them out and/or seek help. Blame and shame for yourself will serve no purpose, but accepting responsibility for what you can learn will — even if you feel it is not your fault.
Responsibility in this context is not about fault; rather, it is the desire to transform what doesn’t work for you by clarifying your personal values and crossed boundaries in order to reach your highest good.
The most important relationship you will ever have is the one with yourself. To thrive with others requires that you are the kind of person you want to be in a relationship with
first. In addition, when you gather the internal strength to do so without being stubborn, selfrighteous or egocentric you are no longer a victim of others or circumstance. Creating a
loving and healthy relationship with yourself dramatically increases your ability to create that with someone else.
Healthy and fulfilling relationships with others require that both parties are willing to seed and nurture the principles of COURAGE. Without agreement to strive to thrive, there is little point in having the relationship. And in some cases, it may be best to discontinue the relationship.
So why do people remain in unhealthy, dangerous or unfulfilling relationships?
■ Is it fear of the unknown?
■ Is it for financial security?
■ Is it a lack of self-worth?
■ Or is it really a lack of COURAGE?
Beyond real physical danger, the irony of the human survival instinct in personal and professional relationships is to protect our childhood ego, resist change and take refuge in being right, even if it is causes us continued problems and extreme emotional discomfort or pain. Yet, merely surviving these relationships erodes the joy and possibilities of our entire human experience.
Relationships grounded in leader-friendly gardening practices and seeded with COURAGE produce vigorous, flourishing and expansive growth. The experience of thriving in a relationship is very distinct from one that grows indifference, scorn, anger or pain.
In the end, the choice is yours for the type of relationships you want in life. May you choose to cultivate your mind, seed COURAGE and use leader-friendly gardening practices as your tools for relationships that begin with commitment and end in embrace?
Debra J. Slover, founder of the Leadership Garden® Legacy, has a goal to seed and nurture 11 million Leadership Gardens by 11/11/11. Author of the U.N.I.Q.U.E. line of empowerment books for youth and adults, she is an educator, speaker and advocate for creating positive home and school climates. Her expertise stems from seven years as a classroom teacher, 20 years directing a statewide youth leadership in prevention program in schools, as well as organizing 20 state and national youth-led conferences.
A mother of five/grandmother of six, she resides with her husband in Albany, Oregon.
To learn more visit www.LeadershipGardenLegacy.com.