Roses and weeds

Daily Reading for July 21

Building and nurturing community—relationships with common purpose and common support—is very much like planting and nurturing a garden. Just a few weeds, if not attended to, can kill what you are trying to grow. Like the weeds in a real garden, if considered alone, they are just healthy plants; in the context of the garden they are killers.

One of these hearty perennials is accidental bomb throwing. Though done by a person of perfectly good will with the best of intentions—that is often the problem—bombing a positive conversation with an emotionally charged issue inevitably brings the potential creativity of the conversation to a screeching halt. . . .

More depressing still is the release of negativity that all too clearly gives speakers a sense of power—and a free ride. If challenged about raining on other people’s parades, they can reply that they were just expressing their feelings and ideas. How often has “just telling the truth” or “what I’m feeling” done irreparable harm?

Anyone is able to report the data or express their feelings. Community builders, however, know the wisdom of the New Testament injunction to speak the truth in love. Love here is not the emotional attachment that makes people tell their beloved that yes, their new hairstyle does look good. Love in this context is the carefully examined concern for how things will turn out for the health of the community as a whole—and, on that basis, some reasonable determination of how much truth to tell at any given time. . . .

As we speak strongly held opinions or feelings, then, it is important to look at the garden in which one speaks. Am I planting a rose or a weed in this community? For the health of the community, one’s motives are not nearly so important as results.

The larger challenge to any community is to take a stand about weeds. If we don’t stand up to dandelions, the lawn will be gone. Often people in communities or organizations that center on doing good have difficulty saying no to the weeds that clog their progress lest someone’s feelings be hurt. Perhaps the next time someone sidetracks progress in our group, we might think of our lawns and politely but firmly say no.

From “The Importance of Pulling Weeds” in Messages in the Mall: Looking at Life in 600 Words or Less by Paul V. Marshall. Copyright © 2008. Seabury Books, an imprint of Church Publishing. Used by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY.

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