-First posted in Multiply, April 10, 2006-

Excerpts from that may be helpful for your personal and professional relationships. Hope this helps…”The Gardening Principle” chapter from John Maxwell’s book


You cannot neglect a relationship and expect it to grow. That’s not to say that all relationships are the same and need the same amount of time and attention. The nature and purpose of the relationship will determine the energy and time needed to cultivate it. Think about some of the many personal and professional relationships you have in your life. How much effort do you give them? Do you treat them the same? Of course not. And you shouldn’t. Every relationship is different but can fit into one of the three categories:

Some people come into our lives for a Reason 

Many relationships are very short and occur for very specific reasons. Sometimes they come and then go away forever. Other times they are ongoing but intermittent. These relationships need only brief, periodic cultivation. A good example of this kind of relationship is the one with my doctor…I consider him my friend as well as my doctor, but I see him only a couple of times a year. And it’s always related to my health.

“The nature and purpose of the relationship will determine the energy and time needed to cultivate it.”

Some people come into our lives for a Season

A second type of relationship lasts only for a period of time. These relationships may last only a few weeks or as long as several years. Many times they are related to our current circumstances or situations. But just because they are temporary doesn’t mean they’re not important. The cultivation of the relationships should just match the season.

Relationships with our children’s teachers and coaches are often seasonal. So are many work relationships. Perhaps you work for a boss you enjoy, but the work is only the bond. And when you move on to another job, you have little reason or occasion to keep in touch. Sometimes that’s just the way these relationships work out.

Some people come into our lives for a Lifetime

The third kind of relationship is ongoing and permanent. These are few and very special. And if we want to keep them healthy and encourage them to grow, we must give them continual cultivation. Otherwise they are likely to shrivel and die.

Our closest friendships are most valuable to us, and like anything of value, they cost us something. We cannot neglect them and expect them to thrive. What price can you put on a great friendship?

“Friendship is like money, easier made than kept.”-Samuel Butler

Marriage brings out the the most important relationship anyone has in this world is the one with a spouse…Socrates said, “By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you’ll become happy. If you’ll get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.”…Dating brings out the best–marriage brings out the rest…

Marriage, like any long-term relationship, requires us to…

-wade through a few things that are difficult

-work for many things that are needed

-wait on some things that take time

-watch out for those things that can be harmful

-wave goodbye to personal things that are selfish

Marriage partners who don’t intentionally cultivate a close relationship will drift apart. It’s sad, but after five years of marriage, all some couples have in common is their wedding day. Some marriages may be made in heaven, but their maintenance must be done on earth.

“The two most important relationships in life are: our relationship with God and with people. Everything else–our wealth, health, and life revolves around these two so we must learn to value them above all else.”


3 thoughts on “All Relationships Need Cultivation

  1. I remember asking a priest 2 years ago how he would define a modern day saint and the reply I got remain etched in my memory: a person with a healthy relationship – with God, his neighbor and himself. Reminds me of the 2nd greatest commandment. Enough said.


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