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On the Corner

Removing obtacles to growth

by Bob Docter –

We are born to flourish and grow.

In a lush, green forest a cone falls from lofty branches and spreads its seeds on friendly winds to be nurtured by gentle storms. It represents God given growth—natural—guaranteed.

Not every seed takes root as all kinds of difficulties may inhibit full development.

Humans progress through a very similar process. Often, however, we discover obstacles in our path—some self placed, others imposed. These obstacles, these difficulties, impede our full development. God has given us various abilities to deal with these hindrances. Therefore, we must use them, increase our awareness of these obstacles, and work to eliminate them.

The law of the irrevocable harvest dictates that we reap what we sow. It also dictates that the quality of the “soil” determines the quality of the “plant.”

As infants, our parents create our growth environment by tilling and working the soil in which we are planted. They determine that soil’s quality. Some enrich it, some ignore it. Some build up—some tear down. And then, there’s Mr. In-between —most of us.

This first contact in life begins to shape us. Loving parents facilitate our growth, nurture us, give us confidence to reach higher, show us how to avoid obstacles. Unloving parents who fail to live and model positive values, who are unwilling to communicate a disciplined life style, who reveal dramatic inconsistency in choice making create obstacles that inhibit our growth. Often they are aided by uncaring teachers and narrowly rigid ministers who seem only to know how to threaten and punish. Their obstacle is irrational fear.

As we add years through adolescence and into adulthood, we become responsible tillers of our own soil. A number of us find ways to create, place and use obstacles in our path to hamper us and, thus, justify our own reluctance to grow. In the process we lose sight of our potential. We minimize our worth. We inflict self-pain, suffering and self-contempt, and thus validate the “wisdom” of our unwillingness to achieve that which we have been given.

If we elevate awareness of some often unseen obstacles to growth, we initiate an important process of obstacle demolition. Moreover, we grow, find self-respect, contribute to society, enjoy positive social contacts and healthy relationships.

Here are just a few to consider. Perhaps you recognize some of them in yourself. If so, begin the process of increasing your own self-awareness and developing strategies to remove them.

Non-engagement with life
Going it alone is a lonely process. Maintaining distance eliminates even the possibility of achieving some measure of intimacy. This refusal to engage life is an indicator of significant irresponsibility—a measure of our cowardice—a tribute to our fear. Often, it’s revealed in our competitiveness, our inattentiveness, our “tuning out.” Sometimes, it’s an ancient parental injunction echoing through our brain in which the directive “don’t get involved” expands to non-engagement.

Non-empathic
How often do you try to “feel with” someone? This is not feeling for the other (sympathy), but feeling with the other. Empathy is a basic human response to strong feelings presented by others. It resides, I believe, deep down in the old brain, under the cerebral cortex. It’s only relationship with thought pertains to the label given the feeling. All too often, we allow that natural physiological function to atrophy. It fades away but never totally disappears. It can be rescued through intention.

Resistance to decision making
Postponing decisions often comes from a fear of closure—not wanting to finish something. It’s often seen as an overwhelming compunction to “keep all options open.” In itself, maintaining options does increase power, but there comes a time when we need to decide—make the choice.

Sometimes, we delay because of insufficient information. This is delaying—not resisting.

Admiting errors
I admit that the word “admitting” has two “t’s.” There, that wasn’t hard. A refusal to admit a mistake sows the seeds of distrust and ends with a shallow and vulnerable relationship.

Unforgiving
This is the little brother of admitting errors. We might describe it as “gracelessness.” If “hurt” motivates the unforgiving, we need to recognize that the only way to end that pain is to forgive. There’s an irrevocable cost to carrying a grudge.

Impatience
Who, me? Yes! me. I struggle with this one, and I’m impatient with my rate of progress. Demanding that all around me fit into a time schedule made only by me represents the height of inappropriate control and egotism. I’m aware of this and working on it.

Perfectionism
Being “perfect” is so far from the human that it is classified as “pathological” in mental health circles. It is an irrational belief that leads only to frustration and negative self-image.

Unappreciative of the present
Some ignore the moment of life that is “now.” They are either concentrating on the future or dwelling on the past. Life takes place in the “now.” To miss it is to avoid life.

Ignoring one’s spirituality
This vital aspect of our humanity tends to be ignored. It needs to be recognized and nurtured exactly the same way we treat our physical, social, mental, and affective components.

These are simply a very few of the ways we can resist growth—a few of the obstacles in our journey. Our humanity is a gift. The way we work to develop it measures our responsibility for our personal growth. We all engage in most of these. The goal, it seems, is to do it less and leave room for growth.


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