The other day I was sitting in a class where we were instructed on using anchors. The teacher used as an example an illustration of propping up newly planted trees with guidelines and stakes. This instructor suggested we need these supports in life too. He went on to say without them. We can be blown over or fall at the slightest test of resolve.
Just as the teacher began identifying what the stakes may represent, I felt a tap on my shoulder. The person behind me whispered, “Actually, once you prop up a tree, it needs support from then on. If you want a strong tree, well rooted and able to defend itself against nature, you must let it stand alone.”
This was very interesting to me; unfortunately for the teacher, I sat there thinking of other examples in nature which gave us life lessons during the remainder of the class.
Here are some I thought of:
When we plant a new crop, we must be patient. New plants don’t grow overnight. Plants, to be strong, need rich soil, water, sunlight, the removal of weeds, and added nutrients. Often, when we want things now and when we can’t wait, it doesn’t work. Nature isn’t like that; anything worthwhile takes time and proper attention to detail. For us to be strong, our growth comes over time.
The greatest forests are created by trees growing near each other, close enough to provide assistance to the neighboring trees. No redwood would have ever gained its stature growing alone. We need others around us; to encourage us through tough times. Then, when we are needed by others, we are there for them. Together we are all better.
Plants are germinated by surrounding vegetation. To have the best of any plant/produce, neighboring plants must be healthy/strong as well. It is imperative that when a crop is pollinated, it is done by neighboring top-quality vegetation. To have valued crops, a farmer needs successful neighbors who will help them. We, too, will do better in life by improving those around us.
My classmate who suggested trees are better off without props is right. It is necessary to learn some of life’s lessons without being sustained by those who think they are protecting us. Our children need to learn to stand on their own. They, like a tree growing without guidelines, will become self-sufficient as a result. We may think we are helping, but we may be taking away their ability to survive.
This is a great topic Jaren and I appreciate that your friend clarified the dependence that artifical supports can create. This is applicable to so many life lessons, particularly free agency and living your own truth. In raising our children, we often want and try to help them avoid hurt or heartache by making decisions for them. While that is noble, they may become dependent upon our judgment instead of learning to cultivate their own decision making skills and being responsible. We generally learn best through our own experiences. While some lessons can be learned by observing the good or bad decisions of others (such as cliff diving or other extreme sports without proper safety considerations in place), nothing instills learning like getting our own hands “dirty”, owning our choices and being responsible for the outcome.
Being told or manipulated to live a certain way instead of being allowed to discover and live your own path can also have negative consequences. The Dalai Lama articulated this concept well when he said:
“People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.”
Honoring and embracing the free agency and individuality in others will pay dividends towards cultivating and supporting strong individuals in a free society. I have found you to be a good example of that Jaren. Thank you.
This post reminded me of the first time I had ever tried to raise my own small garden along side the house. I planted one very long row of corn. After the corn stalks began to get pretty tall my dad (who lived next door) came over and was shaking all of the stalks sideways. When I asked him what he was doing he said, “You should have planted more than one row because they need to pollinate each other.” I had not known that! (I asked him over for dinner after we got some great corn out of it)
This is the same in our life. We need each other. Yes, too much help may make us weak. On the other hand, we do not want to allow our ego to keep us from seeking help when we need it.