When We Don’t Address the Root

I’ve painted the kitchen, the master bedroom, the living room, the downstairs bathroom and the master bathroom. I’ve raked over 18 bags of needles in the backyard, replaced a pane in the back window of the house, AND replaced the mailbox post. I’ve positioned furniture and repositioned furniture, but as much as I get accomplished, there seems to be more to be done

I just moved back into my old house in South Carolina where I was raised and purchased this home back in 2008. And what I’m quickly discovering is that there is always something to fix, always something that needs work, something that needs cleaning, re-attaching, or ripped out.

Perhaps the most daunting project I have in my ever growing laundry list are the weeds that cover the front and back yard. And if you’ve ever pulled weeds, you probably know what a pain in the ass they are to remove. Weeds are the proverbial assholes of the plant world. They can pop up anywhere and completely ruin something beautiful like a flower bed. They smother any of the healthy plants and can quickly make a yard look trashy. When I first started pulling weeds I would simply rip them out of the ground and smile. You see there, weeds? I’m smarter than you. Done deal. The weeds have left the building.

What I discovered instead was that I was the fool. Because weeds roots grow deep and spread like a viral network, they grow back within a few days and continue to stamp out and smother all the hard work I had just put in.

So often in our lives, we can easily look at our lives or others and point out the “weeds”. They’re easy to spot. They stamp out the beauty and can make us look trashy. And we as humans tend to be a pretty judgmental batch. Each of us is really good at pointing out each other’s flaws and problem points. We love to point out “other people’s flower gardens that are overgrown with weeds

I often hear stories from people I meet and interact with about their struggles. Their “weeds” in their lives. Or sometimes the struggles and problems are easy to see. Just think about the guy or girl that goes to school and tries to hide their scars from cutting. Or their eating disorder. Or their drug problem. And the response is one of two things usually:

  1. We make fun of them
  2. We “try” to help but do a crappy job of it.

The first is like someone making fun of the obvious instead of actually helping and it leads to further behavior modification for the person hurting while the root goes untreated, or it makes them despair and the other person empowered that he or she was able to point out the “weeds” growing in their life and have a good laugh about it. But the second option is as equally dangerous. Our friends or those with good intentions will try and be sincere in helping but will say things that hurt instead of help like:

“Just quit cutting” 
“I bet if you just stop for a month you’d surely quit for good”
“I believe you can quit, here let me take your blades/drugs/whatever”

These are seem like supportive ideas and some are even encouraging, but it’s just like those weeds in my backyard. You can rip them out and see nothing is there anymore, but the roots are still alive and flourishing and will only be a matter of time before they spring back and dominate even more territory.


So we can take the blade away and we can even apply rules like “I’m throwing away my razors”, “I’ll mark the calendar each day I’ve been sober”,  “I’ll set the goal of not purging for a month and I’ll be free”. These are all ways in which we white knuckle (try by our own effort to be good) to pull the weeds out of our lives, but the truth is with this type of approach you’re still leaving roots in the ground.

Now, again these types of things are helpful and if you personally have started a system like this for the nasty weeds in your life then I commend you. At least you’re making a call to action and developing a plan. But what we all need to realize is while this may help for a little while, the roots go left untreated only to come back stronger often times.

All our addictions or hurts like cutting, depression, loneliness, binge drinking, drugs, porn, anger, relationship issues….they’re all symptomatic of a deeper issue. They’re above ground issues like they way we’re able to spot weeds, but never addresses the root.

And each of us needs to dig deeper to the root of the problem.

When I talk to people here at Heartsupport often times they come to us with visible, above-ground issues. “My girlfriend doesn’t respect me”. “I can’t stop looking at pornography and it’s tearing a part my relationship with my wife”, “I party because if I’m not drunk I feel socially awkward”, “I have no friends, I’m depressed and lonely, I just feel like I’m not worth living”.

These are above ground issues. These are the repercussions for past harmful experiences or root issues that haven’t ever been addressed.

You see, there might be more to the issue that what appears above the surface. Imagine a porn addict that desperately wants to quit watching but can’t and has tried everything to stop. It just might be that he got addicted at a very young age. Perhaps his father introduced him to it and the kids at school thought he was cool because he had easy access to it. And yet it demoralized him internally. It’s what he ran to for comfort and acceptance. But now he feels that porn is his girlfriend, and rationalizes that there is no way a girl would love him because of his rampant porn addiction.

Imagine a young girl who cuts herself to exercise power but can’t seem to quit no matter how hard she tries. Maybe early on in her life she was touched inappropriately by her uncle. Maybe even her father found out and did nothing for fear of tearing the family apart. And now she feels “dirty” and says “no one would want to marry a girl like that.” Her idea of being a princess was stripped from her at the age of 10 and now the only power she feels she has is with a razor blade.

The experiences that we go through in our lives are the ones that start to mold us into who we become. The stories behind the visible “weeds” in our lives are the roots. They’re what’s driving the weeds to appear and choke out the beauty in our lives. And some of these may seem so small in our lives that we completely overlook them. We can quickly say “dude, that was long ago, I’m over that”. But are we really? Have we forgiven those who have hurt us? Have we forgiven ourselves? Do we even love ourself or do we think we’re dirty? Has our perception on reality become so warped that we even know what’s right and wrong anymore? So many of us have addictions that were birthed because of past circumstances, unforgiveness, or an area of healing that needs to happen.

So when we see people doing outlandish things or things that are harmful we might want to take a moment and think before we speak. We might just realize that often times what we’re seeing in our friends may just be a visible weed, and not what’s churning at the root. That their acting out is the symptom of the root driving them.

And then out of that, perhaps take a look in the mirror and ask “Are their any deep rooted weeds in my yard?”

Photo cover credit: Flickr

Showing 3 comments
  • Dena Milstead

    So very well said! I needed to read this, and I think anyone else would benefit from it as well. 🙂

  • Matt Hill

    Ok so this is so awesome, I came here because my friends recently found all the weeds in my life. I saw this article and thought it might be relevant to my current situation. I’m feeling like I’m being persecuted for what I’ve done. Naturally I’ve been going on the offensive, pointing out the weeds my friends have in their lives to make myself feel more secure about my actions. Just a bit of background, I had depression in the 11th grade and after receiving treatment I thought I was over it (the weeds were pulled out) Fast forward to now, they’re growing back, more widespread than ever before. I think I’m starting to understand that I can’t just keep pulling these weeds the rest of my life if I want to be free. I’ve got to work on my friendships, relationships, faith, lifestyle, and how I view my actions. Sometimes you just have to dig up the whole damn yard.

  • jordan

    my roots are deep… i just keep saying his grace is sufficient…

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