Why Is The Soil More Important Than The Seeds?
Dr. Berg-Martinez is a family therapist. She can make great money in private practice, but has chosen to work in the under served community mental health market. After one of my talks about how people grow, she said,
“I’m going to use that.”
“What?” I asked her.
“What you just said about our souls being a garden. And whether we know it or not, whether we like it not… stuff will grow there. So we better tend the garden.”
I reserve the right to correct or reverse myself, and I’m exercising that right right now: we are less like gardens and more like the soil in a garden.
Essentially, we are dirt.
There are many good resources for people to learn from. Resources to support weight loss, leadership or relational skills, assessments… you name it. There’s a tremendous amount of help for people to become the best version of themselves. Most of it is free [and often worth every penny].
You can find insight and wisdom from the teachings of Confucius or the “second sage” of Confucian, Mencius [the St. Paul to the Jesus of Confucianism]. You can gain insight for living from the life and teachings of the great stoic philosophers like Seneca and Epictetus or the Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius. We have pop culture life coaches, wise pastors, caring professors, TED talks, and no shortage of self-help books or podcasts. So why are so many people stuck in unhealthy life styles, and why do they consistently make destructive life dominating choices?
Their soil needs treatment.
Their soil needs fertilizer.
Treatment and fertilizer
Benjamin is a 59 year old man. In his twenties, he was completely unable to sustain any healthy choice for more than two years. From jobs to relationships, his character [soil] could not grow anything healthy. He read self-help books, listened to lectures, attended church, and read his Bible. But in the end, when under stress he returned to violent behavior as his defense, vulgar language as his response and pornography as his coping mechanism. He wanted to be a better man, he just couldn’t be one.
As a result, he would double-down on “seed”; that is more books, more lectures, more sermons, more Bible study —more and more and more good, healthy information—but the result remained the same: no growth.
After one particularly awful act of violence, he reached out to a friend and disclosed all of his mess. He vomited out the worst about his life. All of it. He remembers thinking he no longer cared what others would think of him. And in that moment, without knowing it, he pulled out the weed of pride and self-love. Unknowingly, he was allowing himself to become good soil.
He went to see a therapist with a new willingness and ability to “hear the seeds”. And what he heard was this: “You know you’re forgiven, right? You seem to be punishing yourself for everything you’ve done. But you’re forgiven. Have you forgotten that?”
It was not the first time he had wept. He had wept in anger. He had wept in sorrow. But it was the first time he wept in gratitude. And when he wept, he wept for everything dark and awful he had ever done or thought.
The effect was immediate and permanent.
He spent the next 10 years learning what it meant to be human. He read more books. Everything from manners, making friends, managing time, how to dress, how to be better at public speaking. He read history books, books about classical music and books about art. He worked on his career, his relationships and his mental, emotional, and spiritual health. On top of all this, the information he had previously taken in, or planted began to take root and grow. He became wiser and healthier than he imagined he could ever become. But the most surprising thing is the ease and speed of his progress.
But it should not have been surprising at all.
Once he tended the soil of his soul by pulling out the weed of pride, good seeds could finally take root and grow. He discovered he didn’t need more information. He needed to prepare his soul to take advantage, use or receive the seeds of good information, so it would have the effect he wanted.
Often, what we need is not more information.
We need to become good soil.
Good soil will produce so much from so little.
Because the healthier the soil, the more it produce, or grow the seeds which are planted in it.
We know this intrinsically from gardening.
Remember, Be Good Soil.
Growth follws when the soil is healthy.