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Pruning for Growth

by ChuckSenior woman gardening

In my last post we looked at how complexity increases with growth.  We also looked at some basic questions of what to do, why, and where to try to break through the complexity.  Today I want to look at three things you can do to make sure your family life is growing in the direction you desire.

Not too many of our families suffer from not having enough to do.  We don’t seem to lack things that are begging for our time, money, attention, and worry.  Families feel choked by all these things.

Most of the things that are choking families aren’t necessarily bad things.  Sure there are negative habits and patterns in our relationships, but much of the chaos is from too many good things.

Our home has over 20 rhododendron bushes.  It really looks nice in our yard but I’m a bit down because I know that in a few weeks I’m going to be covered in a layer of sticky dead flowers and weeds.  I’m going to be crawling under bushes full of spiders and doing the annual pruning.

Bushes that aren’t pruned go wild and either grow in ways they shouldn’t, or die a premature death.

Henry Cloud, co-author of the Boundaries books (yes you should read them all), wrote a lot about pruning in his book “Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships that All of Us Have to Give Up in Oder to Move Forward.”  His focus in the book is on business and ministry but I think the same principles also apply to family.  I’m not talking about cutting family members out of the family tree, but there are habits, ways we interact, things we spend our time on, and things we value that may need some pruning.

  1. Prune to get rid of the dead stuff
  2. Prune to get rid of the sick stuff of things growing in the wrong place
  3. Prune so that resources flow to the most vital blooms

Prune to get rid of dead stuff.  I think this one is pretty easy to identify in other people’s families but can get a bit harder when dealing with our own.  Most of the dead stuff is habits and patterns of relating to each other that doesn’t bring life but instead brings separation.  At Project Patch we identify certain behaviors as life-interfering, treatment-interfering, and quality-of-life-interfering.  We find this helpful because it gives some perspective on the impact of individual behaviors.  In your family there are behaviors that may be okay if you lived alone, but because you live together, they are family-life-interfering.  Those things that I do that hurt me or my relationships, or reduce the quality of my life need to be dealt with before I can move into the more important steps of personal growth.

Prune to get rid of sick stuff or stuff growing in the wrong place. If it is sick, try to make it well, if it doesn’t heal, it needs to be removed.  Dysfunction is something that certain people wear with pride.  I recently read a Facebook post that said, “I plan to give you love, nurturing, and just enough dysfunction to make you funny.” On the surface this seems kind of amusing, but dysfunction ends up being something that results in damage rather than healing.

Prune so that resources flow to the most vital blooms. Many kids that I meet are overwhelmed.  They are taking AP classes in high school, participating in sports, volunteering in the community, participating in youth group, and still try to keep up their image of being a slacker.  Parents are just as busy.   I’m personally really good at overcommitting because it is hard to say no to something that I really want to do.  Many parents I talk to are like me: We want our kids to be “well-rounded” and so the kids are in martial arts, choir, swim team, chess club, 4H, and everything else that well-rounded kids do.  These are all good things but too many good things means nothing is done fully.  It also zaps the joy out of the moment because the next item is calling.

So, clear an hour on your schedule with your spouse this weekend.  Grab a cup of coffee or tea and take out a piece of paper and ask the three questions above.  Make a list of the things that may go under each heading.  Then schedule a family meeting to teach your kids about the importance of pruning for growth and then make a list with your family.

It is from meetings like this that you can discover the values and boundaries that your family shares, but you aren’t done once you have a list.  It is then that the real work begins of working to remove the dead things, heal the sick, and cut for growth.

Question:  What good things are choking your family life and how are you working to clear them out?