Years ago, when I was building my house, there was a massive wildfire less than five miles away. It destroyed an old-growth forest full of towering pines and old oaks with limbs that stretched wide and low. For months afterward, all you would see when you drove past was flat, blackened land, with the occasional dead tree trunk, broken off six to nine feet above the ground.
Today when you drive by that forest, it is a forest again. Lush and green, thick with trees, bushes, and everything else that grows in a forest, it’s not as tall as it once was, but it has a fresh new beauty to it.
And it’s a vivid reminder that sometimes, you need to burn something down completely in order to create new growth and beauty.
Fear gets in the way
All too often, we’re afraid to tell our partner we’re unhappy and that our relationship needs work, to end a dead-end relationship, or quit a frustrating job we hate because we don’t want to risk losing what we have for the unknown. We’re afraid we can’t repair our current relationship – or that we can’t find a new relationship that could be better than the current one. We’re worried that the bridge we burn with our employer might leave us working a job we hate even more.
The thing about these situations is that they’re like the old forest: they’ve been there forever, we’re comfortable with them, and we know what to expect. There’s not much growth, but we know the paths and we know we’ll be okay.
What we’re most afraid of is the flat, blackened land in between what we have now and what we’d like to have.
Sometimes destruction is exactly what you need
Sometimes you have to utterly destroy something in order to find what you really want. That doesn’t mean it has to end, though.
Let’s take your relationship as an example. You might feel it’s stagnated, and you’re not happy. Destruction in this case doesn’t necessarily mean leaving your partner and starting over with someone new. It can simply mean being willing to burn the relationship down, to admit to yourselves and each other that the current state of the relationship is not sustainable, and actively work together to grow a better, healthier relationship that grows and thrives.
Another example might be the way you parent. If you’re not happy with the interactions you have with your kids, you’re not going to toss the kids out and get new ones. But you can destroy the current relationship and create something that is happier and more beneficial to both you and the kids. You can decide that the way you discipline, or the way you speak to each other, or whatever it is that bothers you, is no longer allowed in your home, and create a new way from scratch.
Don’t let the middle of the journey keep you from the destination
That blackened middle of the destructive process is often what keeps us from being willing to take that step, to destroy it all in favor of building something better.
I understand that it’s scary. I know that it’s hard to let go of what’s familiar so that you can navigate new, uncharted, and frankly terrifying territory. And because we’re talking about a metaphorical forest rather than a real one, it’s even scarier because we can’t see the other side of that destruction. We feel a deep fear that maybe there won’t be an end to that scorched earth and we’ll just be stuck there forever.
But just like the real forest, eventually the earth of your situation will begin again. Growth will start small, just tiny, vivid green shoots sprouting out of the ashes. But over time, with dedication and determination to keep working at it, you’ll rebuild something new.
And just like that real forest, the regrowth will often be more beautiful, more vibrant and lush and satisfying than what was there before. You just have to be willing to light the match.