Recently my wife and I took a trip to Costa Rica. One morning we kayaked along the coast to a secluded beach where the rainforest came almost right up to the water. There were enormous, lush trees all along the hills sloping down toward the beach. One particular tree stood out because it was so big and the trunk bent at a 90 degree angle over the water.
I exclaimed to our guide how amazing that tree was.
“Too bad it is dying inside.” he said.
His response took me by surprise. “What do you mean it is dying? It looks so green and strong.”
“Look more closely. Tell me if you see anything out of the ordinary.”
As I moved in I did notice something. The roots of the tree were growing out of the ground and then coming up and rapping around the trunk and limbs of the main tree.
“Why do the trees roots do that?” I asked.
“That is not part of the tree.” he said. “That is a root that we call the Strangling Root. It grows alongside a large tree and wraps itself around it like a vine. It doesn’t have it’s own root system so it needs to cling to the bigger tree to grow.”
“Well that’s kind of cool” I said. “They work together.”
The guide shook his head, “Not really. The Strangling Root feeds off of the nutrients at the heart of the bigger tree. As the root gets stronger, the big tree gets weaker. It slowly dies on the inside as the Strangler Root gets stronger and more aggressive. In the end, the big tree is left almost hollow and eventually falls over, unable to support its own weight plus the weight of the Strangling Root.”
I thought a lot about that tree during the rest of our trip. There are many applications to our lives within that situation. We all start off like that big strong tree; full of life and promise. But all around us are our personal “Strangling Roots”. Sometimes they represent bad habits and vices, other times they could be people we associate with.
In either case, the situation starts off innocent enough; almost like two people working together in a mutually beneficial way. But as the bad habit grows larger and more entrenched in our life, it starts to squeeze. It drains us of our energy. It gains momentum and strength as we are left increasingly more weak. Eventually we are left hollow inside and we collapse or give up, the weight being too great to bear in our weakened condition.
How do we avoid falling like the mighty tree? We start by taking an honest inventory of our friends, associates and our personal habits. If there is someone or something that we feel is leaching off of us, robbing us of our happiness and success, we need to decide to remove it from our life immediately. Life is too short and happiness too precious to allow any of it to be wasted on these relationships. Remove the Strangling Roots from around you and you will be amazed at how much more energy you have to focus on the important things.
Now, go get your pruning shears!
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