A Rose By Any Other Name... Has Thorns

"That which God said to the rose, and caused it to laugh in full-blown beauty, He said to my heart, and made it a hundred times more beautiful." -Rumi

Do you ever find yourself being irritable and defensive with those who love you the most? Nahh... me neither. (Just kidding!)

My inspiration for this month's blog came out of listening to "Contre Qui, Rose?" from the album Sacred Treasures IV: Choral Masterworks, Quiet Prayers

I was so intrigued by the beauty of the song that I had to find the lyrics, which are based on a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke:

Against whom, O rose,
have you now taken up
all these thorns?
Has your quiet joy
driven you, alas,
to now become this arméd thing?

But from whom are you protected
by this timid show of force?
How many foes have I removed from you
who never feared your thorns?
Ah, but no, from spring to fall,
you have torn the ones
who do you good.

--Tr. Bernard Brandt

From whycenter.com we learn:
Thorns on a rose bush develop much before the actual flower. This happens because buds and young roses might be eaten away by animals before the flowers get a chance to spread their pollen, with the help of insects, if they do not have a sharp thorn system already. Wild roses are found to have sharper and denser thorn systems than the ones we see in a nursery or in a green house. It is perhaps the lack of necessity of the defense mechanism within the protected walls that has prompted the rose bushes to develop less effective thorns over many generations. A more factual reason is that the rose breeders have cross bred different species of roses in such a manner that the resultant species has fewer thorns and more flowers.

It seems to me that we of the human species have a lot in common with roses. Our tendency to react defensively, or to shield ourselves with "thorns," is determined by how safe we feel to express our own inner beauty, our soul, the essence of who we are.

Parker Palmer, in his book, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, uses another metaphor to illustrate this notion.

Just like a wild animal, the soul is tough, resilient, savvy, resourceful and self-sufficient: it knows how to survive in hard places. Many of us learn about these qualities in the darkest moments of our lives when the faculties we normally depend upon utterly fail us—the intellect is useless, the emotions dead, the will impotent, and the ego shattered. But sometimes, way back in the thickets of our inner lives, we sense the presence of something that knows how to stay alive and helps us to keep going. That something, I suggest, is the tough and tenacious soul.
And yet the soul, despite its toughness, is also essentially shy—just like a wild animal. It will flee from the noisy crowd and seek safety in the deep underbrush. If we want to see a wild animal, we know that the last thing we should do is go crashing through the woods yelling for it to come out! But if we will walk into the woods quietly and sit at the base of a tree, breathing with the earth and fading into our surroundings, the wild creature we seek may eventually show up.

So... a few coaching questions for you:
  1. When you feel defensive, what are you protecting?
  2. What would allow you to drop your defenses?
  3. When is it safe for your soul to show up?
  4. How do you make it safe for others to express the truth of who they are?
As I reflect on my own life, and on humanity in general, my prayer is that someday our "thorns" will become unnecessary and many more "roses" will bloom.