The summer sun warmed my shoulders, and sweat trickled down my brow as I worked in my new garden. Weeds had overrun the garden box. A rainy spring had helped the weeds grow as big and burly as the food-producing plants. In some cases, it was almost impossible to tell the difference.
Once the weeds were pulled, I was left with a small summer squash, tomato, and cilantro plant. With some water and fertilizer, I left them to grow. Within three days, the squash plant had doubled in size, and a bright yellow gourd was growing. A month later, two dozen are ready to be picked. The tomatoes are not far behind. The harvest this fall is going to be bountiful.
Weeding out the garden was hard work. Sometimes the weeds were so tangled in the dirt that I had to dig. Other times, a sharp sticker would pierce my gardening gloves. But making an effort to remove them from the garden allowed the vegetables a chance to flourish.
In the garden of our lives, there will be both plants that produce a harvest and weeds. We must discern which are which and uproot the unhealthy relationships that keep us from thriving.
Examining Our Relationships
Take a moment and reflect on all the people you know and your relationships with them. When you think about it, the list of people you consistently engage with is quite long. How many of them do you consider close friends and relationships? How many do you let into your inner circle?
Never confuse the quantity of relationships you have with their quality. While these relationships may all have taken root in your life’s garden, the unhealthy relationships act like a weed, choking out the sun and stealing valuable nutrients from your growth and spirit.
How do you tell a fruit-bearing relationship from an unhealthy, weed-like one? Unfortunately, there’s not an app for that. While this is not an exhaustive list, here are a few signs of an unhealthy and damaging relationship.
Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship
- Controlling behavior
- Abuse of any kind (physical, mental, emotional, sexual)
- Manipulation, gaslighting, or making you feel guilty
- Belittling you, either publicly or privately
- Sabotaging you
- Monitoring your whereabouts and activities
Fair Weather Friends
Many people you have relationships with will enjoy basking in the sunlight when life is going well. However, the most surefire way to tell a hardy plant from a weed is to go through a stormy season.
I have faced several hurricane-force crises in my life. The first was a deterioration of my health that took years to recover from. The other was fleeing for my life from an abusive marriage. The people in a deep and authentic relationship with me drew close, wrapped their arms around me, and helped me navigate the storms. However, those who did not have my best interests in mind showed their true colors immediately. And those were the people I needed to let go of.
Discontinuing relationships with people you have a history with and once thought you were your friends is hard. It feels like ripping up those porcupine-quilled weeds in the yard that pierce right through your gloves. Anxiety can get a stranglehold on you and make you worry about what they will say about you and how they will react. You wonder how bad the fallout will be. Just the fact that you’re half-panicked about stepping away means it’s an unhealthy relationship.
However, that brand of fear is a liar. It doesn’t matter what stories they tell about you when you cut the cord. The truth always finds its way to the surface. And what you will experience is freedom and growth.
When that difficult situation reveals which relationships are producing fruit and which ones are strangling you, you need to pull the toxic ones out like weeds and let them go. By letting them continue and not stopping them at the source, you are allowing them to limit the growth and fruit you could have.
This month, I closed some chapters and parted ways with people who have been in my life for a long time. There were plenty of tears shed as I mourned these relationships. Sometimes I think we mourn the loss of what could have been rather than the relationship that actually was. No matter how hard we try sometimes, we can’t change a person’s heart. Only God can do that. In that case, we must forgive (otherwise, we harbor the hurt and bitterness in ourselves, which is a weed of a different color), part ways, and move on.
What About You?
What relationships do you need to examine in your own life? Are there unhealthy relationships taking up space? Who do you need to forgive? Who do you need to distance yourself from?
As I close these chapters and seek freedom, growth, and healing, I challenge you to look at those relationships in your life. Are you willing to do a little weeding to ensure that you grow, flourish, and feed those in relationships with you?
© 2022, Lainey La Shay