tending our own garden

I like to fix things. And if I’m honest, I’d like to ‘fix’ others. But that’s an incredibly arrogant way of thinking – cause clearly I need a lot of fixing myself.

I love it [insert sarcasm font] when I receive important messages in my social media feeds. Messages like:


  • Stay in your own garden
  • Hold space for another
  • Stop planting flowers in people’s yards who aren’t going to water them
  • Refrain from interfering in other people’s lives

Um, yeah. Let me clarify, these messages are not telling me to avoid helping the person next to me who is in need. Instead, it is about me not ‘meddling’ where I haven’t been invited.

What might it mean to ‘hold space’ or ‘stay in my own garden’ while still caring for another?

It means being willing to walk alongside someone else and let them tell their own story. It means a lot of ‘nots':

  • Not trying to fix them.
  • Not proposing a ‘better way’ for them.
  • Not dropping subtle (or not so subtle) pieces of advice
  • Not trying to make them feel inadequate or like they are failing.
  • Not trying to control the outcome.
  • Not judging them for the progress they aren’t making or the speed of progress

About this point, my defenses start kicking it. But what about the person I’m teaching, or mentoring, or training? You’re telling me I shouldn’t help them learn and make progress? Actually, I should help them learn and make progress. But that’s a very different relationship – they’ve either requested my help or signed up for my class and are wiling to engage in the process.

We’ve all been there. If I pay to take a painting class, I want that person to advise me and offer me pointers. But what I don’t need is for them tell me, ‘you have to paint flowers and here is how you paint flowers’ if what I want to paint is a sunset. That would be like the coach of our university football team showing up at my office. “You work at the university and you need a workout program. Show up tomorrow at 6am and we’ll get you 4 hours of training and show you how you can be the smallest football player ever.”

Not helpful to me and a big waste of everyone’s time.

And yet that is the very thing I often do to those around me. If they would just do what I think they ought to do, their lives would be sooooooo much better. Right?

tend my own gardenSo what might it mean to ‘hold space’ or ‘stay in my own garden’ while still caring for another?

  • It means letting them first decide if they want a garden or not. Perhaps they’d just rather buy flowers once a week at the corner market.
  • It means letting them decide what kinds of flowers to plant in the garden.
  • It means letting them decide how much to take care of their garden. It may look look messy to me but it works for them.

It is really about:

  • Listening.
  • Helping when asked and in the way asked.
  • Giving others the space to experiment. And to fail. And to try again.
  • Encouraging.
  • Maintaining connection and relationship.
  • And most importantly, continuing to tend my own garden.

maryjoburkhard.com #culturethriving

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