Spring is almost in full swing! Are you as excited as we are?!
The rhythms of spring make it an ideal time for spring cleaning more than just your home and yard. The rain, the budding trees and blooming flowers are about to give us one of nature’s most beautiful seasons.
Our last blog introduced this idea as we talked about working the ground of your relationships. If you missed it, go back one week and read about the importance of the “soil” in your life. It sets the stage for what we’re talking about here.
This week, we explore three soil conditions that keep you from building relationships well.
It’s messy work, but it’s the kind of work that makes things better.
Let’s dig in!
If we asked you to tell us one thing that’s holding you back in your relationships, what would you say?
Would you tell us you need more time with the people who matter most? Perhaps you need to pay better attention when they’re right in front of you? Do you need to be better at calling friends back or returning text messages? Maybe you need to ask more questions… listen more than you talk… or follow up and follow through when people need your help.
Since we’re all imperfect (surprise!), we’re pretty confident you can identify at least one thing to do better in your relationships with others, right?
But what if we told you that building better relationships—the kind that makes all of life better—doesn't start with what you do or see?
What if we told you the work of better relationships is actually an inside job?
We’ve all done this before: aiming to make lasting change by changing something we do. Habits are definitely a key to successful change, but habits are always connected to the heart. We act in certain ways and do certain things because of what we value and believe. Our habits are connected to our heart, and to the ground of our life and relationships.
To make lasting change means digging beyond habits to the heart of the issue—from changing what you see to doing root work around what you believe.
When you work on roots, you go into places that few, if any, get to see. And you can’t just look around. You have to look underneath, beside, and along your everyday interactions to discover the reason(s) you do what you do.
Root work is all about digging in to ask yourself the all-important question, why?
Why don’t I respond to personal messages in a timely manner?
Why do I avoid confrontation?
Why is applause so important to me?
Why do I always need to have the last word?
Why is it so hard to express what I’m feeling?
Why do I run late all. the. time?
Why am I committed to being overcommitted?
Why can’t I shake this feeling of frustration?
Asking yourself why?! is crucial to the process of understanding. It’s what gets you digging. And digging leads to uncovering what’s really going on.
Digging is messy, but there’s meaning in the mess. It’s called IN-sight.
In terms of you and your relationships, IN-sight is the ability to see into yourself in real time with more clarity and truth. It’s the practice of reflection that leads to an honest evaluation of yourself so that you can be better together with others.
We’re not talking about breakthroughs made in therapy, although we encourage you to do whatever it takes to see into yourself. We’re talking about the intrapersonal work done by you to sharpen your relational acuity.
Regardless of what it takes, the key is digging until you reach the bottom. It’s a step by step commitment to identify where the pace of success ro the presence of past experiences have allowed feelings, excuses and attitudes to remain in you that should not be in your life at all.
IN-sight is what helps you see what stands between you and the relationships you desire most.
In the process of doing our own root work personally and with others, we’ve surveyed three conditions that interfere with building better relationships.
In the parable, Jesus explains how good growth happens in gardens and in life.
He talks through four soil conditions. One is good. The other three corrupt good growth.
The same is true in you and your relationships.
There’s good ground. This is where the best things grow. And right next to the good ground are three other soil conditions that hinder growth.
The first condition is stony ground.
Stony ground is a metaphor for what happens when you get offended.
When you’re hurt, personal injuries and experiences get added to your soil. They’re like stones.
These stones give the past a place in your present. You see them all the time. Your past reminds you that people will hurt you, so you keep the past present as a reminder and as a warning not to let anyone too close or you’ll get hurt again. But these stones limit your growth by limiting how much room you have for relationships.
The second condition is weeds.
The weeds of life grow from comparison, and comparison is a distraction.
Evaluating yourself in light of others steals your joy, spreads you thin and nourishes “weeds” of discontent in your heart and mind. It’s a cycle: the more you look at others, the more you lose sight of yourself. Instead of living confidently, you’re constantly stressed. Purpose and passion are replaced by aspiration. And where you once longed for significant relationships, you settle into shallow associations.
The third condition is hard ground.
Hardness is what happens when really difficult things are left unaddressed in your life.
It’s what you do when your life is marked by rejection, abandonment, abuse or trauma. Hardening your heart is the natural response. A hardened heart may isolate, compartmentalize, or even drive you to change everything about your life to escape the reality you’re facing. You do whatever it takes to stop the pain.
But fortifying your heart doesn’t heal the pain. No amount of protection can keep you from living life in response to whatever caused the pain in the first place.
These three conditions—stony, weed-infested and hard—represent varying degrees of how we express and react to life's difficulties.
Most of us experience all three conditions to some degree during our lifetime. You may be able to see some of these conditions at work in your life even now.
Springing into better relationships begins by asking yourself why? and then digging into the ground of your life so you can see what’s really going on.
It’s deep work, so get someone you trust—someone who will tell you the truth in love—to dig with you. Ask them to share what they see beneath the surface of your life. These questions will help start the conversation: Where do you disappoint them? How can you be a better friend? What are you missing or holding onto that’s holding back your growth?
Let them share insights and next steps.
Listen with a soft heart.
Then do what needs to be done.
Take one small step. Then another. Then another.
Maybe you need to make an apology. Maybe you need to listen instead of talk. Maybe you just need to stop and have a cup of coffee with someone.
Whatever it is, you can do it. Make it your priority, even if the process is a little messy and uncomfortable.
Building relationships well happens when we go from IN-sight to action, one small step after another.
Until next week,