How Gardening Applies to Growing Healthy Relationships

By Charity

"Weeding is the expression of ‘detoxing’ in gardening. And this practice also applies beautifully to the gardening of our relationships. It is better to have regular moments of weeding out toxic thoughts and influences than to allow them to accumulate and overturn your garden’s purpose."

We are social creatures who thrive in community with others. Our innate desire to belong is as critical as the basic necessities of survival.

Cultivating healthy relationships resembles the work of designing and tending to a garden. Gardening is about creating the conditions for good things to grow and flourish. Relationships are a form of gardening, where we learn the art of listening, attuning to needs, weeding out the unnecessary and pruning even when it hurts. Our relational gardens are a colorful display of all the relationships we hold, whether that be as a parent, a sibling, a lover, a friend, or colleague.

So which type of garden makes for the healthiest of relationships? The answer can be found in self awareness and acknowledgement of what season of life you find yourself. Others need not define who we are to be. Yet the influence of the other, or the experience of rejection, can be an overwhelming force that distorts the truth of who we are in the context of community.

The roles we play in our life sometimes require us to show up in different ways. However, we must always seek to grow our ability to bring our whole selves into each one of these spheres.

Author and speaker, Brene’ Brown, once asked this question: “what’s the greater risk? Letting go of what people think - or letting go of how I feel, what I believe, and who I am?” This question resonates with me when I think about assessing the relationships I’m holding. Reflecting on such questions can illuminate the path for us to not only begin to find ourselves, but also bring more of who we truly are into the relationships we cherish.

Gardens require a lot of attention. One must determine the right soil conditions, pay attention to the relationships between plant species, allow for death to play its part of the cycle, protect from unwanted predators, among many other things. Left neglected, one can lose sight of the original intention of the garden. Was it designed for beauty, for cleansing, for produce, or serenity?

Weeds are fast to filter in and change the course of the garden. In our relationships, weeds resemble our inner thoughts, past hurts, toxic people, and unprocessed emotions. Life is filled with experiences of loss, longing and love - and our beings can internalize all of this if we don’t develop a healthy way to process these things within relationships.

Weeding is the expression of ‘detoxing’ in gardening. And this practice also applies beautifully to the gardening of our relationships. It is better to have regular moments of weeding out toxic thoughts and influences than to allow them to accumulate and overturn your garden’s purpose.

I’d like to offer a few reflection questions to ponder as you take inventory of your garden of relationships:

  • How am I currently showing up in my relationships?
  • What does this say about the person I’m becoming?
  • How does this align with my values?
  • What ‘weeds’ do I need to detoxify?
  • Where am I not flourishing in community and why?

Clear communication, an open and healing heart, wonder and appreciation are just a few of the tools that can help us cultivate a thriving garden out of our relationships.