|"Strangler fig" climbing up a cabbage palm.|
Parasites prey upon other living things. They feed upon the life-giving properties of their host in order to sustain their own life. Some people imitate this behavior by sponging off their friends and relatives or by eating up their precious time.
This can be done overtly through wireless media or in subtle ways that may subvert our efforts to succeed. In either case, we may find our plans sabotaged, our designated time devoured, and our energy sapped.
In my neighborhood, a parasitic plant called a strangler fig can destroy grown trees if allowed to grow unattended. One of their favorite victims is the palm tree, especially cabbage palms. Of course, palms are not really trees at all, but members of the grass family. They are hollow inside, and flexible. When hurricane winds blow, the palms bend and sway. I’ve seen a few palm tops lopped off in a gale, but this rarely happens.
The danger in strangler figs is that they wrap tightly around the trunk and steal nutrients from the host. At the top, they grow a thicket of leaves that hinders the palms flexibility. Instead of weathering hurricane winds, they end up snapping off or being uprooted from the weight of the fig leaves.
Negative thinking is a lot like this. It wraps its pitiful arms around us; makes us feel sorry for ourselves, and then breaks us when we’re most vulnerable. Like strangler figs, negative thinking chokes off optimism and confidence. If we allow it to get a stronghold on us, we become weak and needy. Not a good position for success.
Sometimes we allow others to do our negative thinking for us in the form of criticism or by allowing them to take over our creative thought processes. Our own ideas are belittled, crushed and blown away by their bombastic arrogance.
Recognizing our friends from our enemies is vital for survival. Having positive influences in our life can curtail the strangling effects of people who use their power to put others down. Positive criticism, on the other hand, focuses on our strengths and encourages growth while minimizing error. It motivates rather than negates.
Recognizing the difference between the two styles of leadership can help us overcome any negative effects, whether we’re on the giving or receiving side of the equation.
Below is the church where my husband and I were married almost 10 years ago.