Three Words to Build a Bridge Instead of a Wall into the Secret Garden.

We all have a secret garden. A place we don’t want others to go near, but with three little words, we can build a bridge and not a wall.

I had been having a conversation with someone, and then suddenly, I felt the protection of a wall.  The conversation changed, there was a ‘downplaying’ of the issue we talked about, and a new topic was introduced.

I could sense a wall protecting something, a tender topic, something they weren’t confident in exploring with me, yet if we were to grow in a relationship, we needed to be willing to build bridges and not walls.

Let’s build bridges, not walls.Martin Luther King Jr.

Three simple words build bridges and not walls.  Tell me more.

A Bridge or a Wall 

I remember a man coming to me once for some advice about his teenage daughter. She had become a bit rebellious, and he wanted to straighten her.

I asked him to tell me more. He explained the situation further, and I got to understand the crisis that had happened.

The invite for him was to either make a bridge or build a wall.

His initial response was to come down hard and strong with his rules and opinions. We talked about what would be the most likely outcome of this approach, and he decided that she would most likely build a wall. A structure that would inhibit a deeper relationship and bonding between his daughter.

The other option was to build a bridge. A means by which he could enter her world, get to know what was going on.

Hopefully, through his being a model of good relationship skills, she might want to enter his world and understand his fears, but that is never a promise.

It would take longer, require patience, and learning to be quiet and to listen.

So we talked about some questions that he could gently ask her.

The ‘Tell me more’ invites.

He could not express his opinion (No F.A.S.S. – no fixing, advising, saving, or setting one straight). He was to probe into the problem gently.

Over time and with many conversations, he and his daughter built a stronger relationship. Each of them had different views on all sorts of topics, but there was growing mutual respect.

Secret Garden

One of my favorite Bruce Springsteen songs is Secret Garden.

He tells the story of wanting to enter the deepest parts of a woman’s life. It’s a secret garden, a place she hides and doesn’t let anyone in.

She’ll let you in her heart.
If you got a hammer and a vise
But into her secret garden, don’t think twice.

She’ll lead you down a path.
There’ll be tenderness in the air.
She’ll let you come just far enough.
So you know she’s really there.

She’ll look at you and smile.
And her eyes will say
She’s got a secret garden.
Where everything you want
Where everything you need
Will always stay
A million miles away.
Bruce Springsteen

We all have secret gardens. Walls are built to keep ourselves safe.

We have been hurt, so self protectively, we build protection around ourselves.

But what walls do is that they hide the best of what the garden has to provide to the world.

The most precious rose is kept locked away, and no one can delight in its beauty and purpose.

I’ve snuck into a few people’s secret gardens. Seen the roses, smelt the fragrance, and helped some walls be taken down and rusty gates swing a little wider so others may be blessed by the beauty within.

Walls are needed

To be honest, some people will not treat the tenderness of your heart with the love and respect it needs and deserves. You’ve been there, done that, got the tee-shirt and the pain.

So you’ve built a wall, but you still want to be known. There is a flower garden in your soul that needs tender care and love.

You don’t want a mechanic, an engineer, or an accountant. You want a gardener to tend the soil, prune the vines and smell the roses.

True gardeners are hard to find.

It’s interesting to note that the first person to see Jesus after his resurrection was Mary, who thought he was the cemetery’s gardener. John 20:15 Perhaps he was. Maybe he was the gardener of dead souls.

Tell me more.

I want to know more. I want to understand.

Behind the problems we have are often secret gardens. We present with this issue, but really the deepest problem is hidden away behind walls and doors.

A king is one who searches things out.

It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. Proverbs 25:2

It might come in the form of these little questions and statements.

    • I want to know a little bit more.
    • Can you please explain?
    • I didn’t quite understand
    • Tell me more

A king builds bridges over the walls, peeks through the gates, looks at the fears and assumptions we have made, and explores the beauty within.

Don’t let your secret walled garden be lost to the world. We need the beauty and purpose you have within.

Quotes to consider

  • When you speak to me about your deepest questions, you do not want to be fixed or saved: you want to be seen and heard, to have your truth acknowledged and honored. Parker J. Palmer
  • Sensitive listeners respond to comments with words that convey an interest in hearing more, sentences that open the door to information.  Words that open doors transmit two messages: 1.‘I am interested in whatever you have to say.’ 2.’I will accept you regardless of what you say.'” Larry Crabb
  • A brother has not given up all things if he holds onto the purse of his own opinions. St. Francis of Assisi
  • When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. Henri J.M. Nouwen
  •  Learn to respond to others with honest, open questions instead of counsel or corrections. With such questions, we help “hear each other into deeper speech.” Parker J. Palmer.

Questions to answer

  1. What is in your secret garden?
  2. What are some gently curious questions that you could ask someone?
  3. Who has gently explored your secret garden?

Further reading

Please. No Fixing, Advising, Saving or Straightening Out

Why Men Don’t Talk. 26 Reasons for Silence

Mental Health is … Learning to Listen for the Whispers

Barry Pearman

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash