When I was a child, I loved to read and one of my favorite books (besides the Nancy Drew series) was “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The story details all the discoveries of a girl when she moves in with distant relatives who she had never met. One of the main character’s discoveries is that of a secret garden that had been locked up and untended for many years due to the pain of loss tied to that garden for her family. I had a similar discovery of a secret garden recently when doing yard work at our new home. For whatever reason, the previous owners allowed the weeds of the wetlands that back up to our house to take over a rose garden that had been planted and landscaped; we did not realize the rose garden existed until things began to bloom and we began tending our flower beds. It was a small discovery that brought me joy on a number of levels because it reminded me of one of my favorite childhood books. It made me wonder to myself what else has yet to be discovered! The concept of secret gardens exists in people as well as gardens. There is so much beauty that has been locked up, hidden and undiscovered due to losses individuals have endured throughout the course of their life. I am constantly challenging individuals to pull away all the weeds and briars that they have allowed to cover up the beautiful aspects of their being. The painful briars that keep the beautiful things guarded are the same painful briars that keep us from enjoying the beauty. Most people will respond to my challenges by saying it’s just too painful or too hard to remove the walls, but when given assistance by those around them that also want to see the beautiful parts of the individual uncovered, they can allow the progress to occur. Finding discoveries of hidden beauty in people is not uncommon but finding assistance in helping to remove the painful briars of protection can be. When was the last time you complimented an individual on something emotionally, spiritually or physically beautiful about that person? We need people to pull the beauty out of us and with us; otherwise, the weeds of life that come with loss and trauma slowly choke out the beauty. God can help us, but we must also tend to our gardens, The Bible says it this way: 1 Corinthians 3:9 Amplified Bible (AMP) 9 “For we are God’s fellow workers [His servants working together]; you are God’s cultivated field [His garden, His vineyard], God’s building.” Go pull some weeds today so that the beauty of who you were created to be can be visible to yourself and others. Stop keeping your beauty in a secret garden.
In the world of counseling, we frequently discuss relationships and how to interact with people in positive ways. I regularly am directing people to learn new communication skills that promote positive emotional connections in their relationships. Learning a new way of how to speak to others is often like learning a foreign language. It takes a long time to learn how to connect with people on a more intimate level when you are learning a foreign language or when learning how to speak in an emotionally connecting manner. Most of the people I meet were raised in homes where neither languages were taught.
The following are five positive phrases we can use with friends, family members, and coworkers to connect with them in positive ways:
1. “You should be proud of yourself for __________________ (fill in a behavior or action).” When we focus on the fact that the individual should be proud of themselves, it causes the person to take ownership of their actions instead of just hearing the ways we are proud of them. Although we may state that we are proud of them, our main focus needs to be that the individual is encouraged to take ownership of their good choices.
2. “I am sorry that you have to deal with this______________ (fill in the blank).” “That must make you feel_________ (fill in the blank with an emotion).” People need to hear that we have empathy for their situation so that they do not question the validity of their own feelings. All humans need to feel understood in order to feel emotionally connected to another person.
3. “You are good at _________________ (fill in a skill or a behavior) and I benefit from your strength in this way_________________(list how their strength impacts you).” All of us need affirmation and to know how we are impacting our world in a positive way. Are you telling people how their strengths impact you?
4. “Everyone makes mistakes, myself included, and this is what I did that was similar __________ (share a similar mistake)”. We need to hear that our mistakes are part of the normal human condition because when we do make a mistake we tend to blanket ourselves with shame. We need other caring individuals to help remove that shame by letting us see that we are not defined by our mistakes.
5. “I notice you______________ (fill in a positive action or attribute).” All people need to be recognized for their positive contributions that they bring to the world and when you recognize another individual for their contributions, they will feel loved and valued.
I have no doubt that most people reading this post wish to be more loving individuals, but most people were not taught the language of emotional connectedness. Try to introduce one of these phrases each day this week.
8 Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love makes up for many of your faults.[a]