On Being Supportive

apple treeAt the back of our office, there is a small grass area surrounded by a wilderness of brambles and wild flowers. A while ago, someone planted a very small apple tree which has a short piece of aluminium tubing next to it as a support.

Over the winter, and indeed into much of the spring, the tree was doing a very good impression of a dead twig. No leaves, no signs of life at all. But with the slowly rising temperatures, and all the rain, it sprouted new leaves and is growing nicely.

The aluminium stake is only there to help the tree survive the worst of the weather, the wind and storms. It does not help the tree to grow, it is so loosely tied to the developing sapling that it does not influence it in any way, it just stands there and offers support when the tree needs it.

That is how we should be when we offer support to someone. We are not there to influence them or to change the way they are growing, just to provide additional strength when times get tough. We must show compassion when they go through growing pains, have wisdom to help them overcome their issues and use our courage when they lean on us.

Being their support brings it’s own challenges. We have to accept the path the person we are supporting decides to take, whether it would be our choice or not. We must listen to what the person is saying, but not try to influence them or provide conflicting view points. We also have to have the strength to resist the forces that would otherwise cause us both to falter.

That is the role of a support. It’s not an easy role, but it does bring it’s own rewards. In time, like the tree, the person may in fact become stronger than us and no longer want or need our support. But the joy in seeing them grow and become strong is reward enough for the task undertaken.

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