'Tending a rose'

"Where you tend a rose, my lad,

"A thistle cannot grow."This is part of the sage philosophy found in The Secret Garden, a children's classic by Frances Hodgson Burnett, who was born in England in 1848.

The novel tells the story of Mary Lennox, a sullen and spoiled child who goes to live with her uncle in England after her parents died in India. In her uncle's house, she meets her cousin, Colin, who has kept himself secluded in his room, allowing only a few people to see him. Although there is nothing wrong with him physically, he is paralyzed by the fear he will have a hunchback if he lives. He has convinced himself and others, however, that he will soon die.

All her life, Mary has been determined not to be pleased by or interested in anything. In the novel's early chapters, she is portrayed as a wretched, lonely child. Walking on her uncle's estate, she stumbles upon the key to the entrance to a garden enclosed by a high wall. She becomes obsessed with finding the garden's door, which is hidden by many years' growth of tree branches, shrubs and vines. Once she enters the garden, a transformation takes place through the seasons. As she works to restore the garden to its former grandeur, she experiences a freshening of her spirit. Colin, as he is coaxed from his gloomy room into the garden, begins to really live also.

The garden coming to life serves as a double metaphor; first, for Mary's awakening interest in living things and in something outside herself and, second, for the miraculous recovery of Colin from the negative thoughts that confined him. Near the end of the novel is this passage:

"So long as Colin shut himself up in his room and thought only of his fears and weakness and his detestation of people who looked at him and reflected hourly on humps and early death, he was a hysterical, half-crazy little hypochondriac who knew nothing of the sunshine and the spring, and also did not know that he could get well and stand upon his feet if he tried to do it. When new, beautiful thoughts began to push out the old, hideous ones, life began to come back to him, his blood ran healthily through his veins, and strength poured into him like a flood. . . . Much more surprising things can happen to anyone who, when a disagreeable or discouraged thought comes into his mind, just has sense to remember in time to push it out by putting in an agreeable, determinedly courageous one. Two things cannot be in one place."

" `Where you tend a rose, my lad,

" `A thistle cannot grow.' " (The Secret Garden, pp. 209-10, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, David R. Godine, Publisher, Boston.)

Many of us need to "tend a rose" or two. We need to nurture good thoughts and take positive action so the thistles of fear, doubt, discouragement, depression and other noxious elements do not have the opportunity to thrive and overtake the gardens of our lives. Psychologists refer to the process of replacing negative thoughts with positive ones as "thought detection, thought selection."

Opposite thoughts cannot occupy the mind in the same moment. Because negativism grows so aggressively and reproduces itself so abundantly, it needs constant controlling. We need to clear away the debris of negative thinking that clutters our minds and blights our souls much as the dead wood of winter and weeds of spring need to be cleared for a garden's verdant growth.

Negative thoughts make cruel governors. They steer us away from our potential, blocking us from setting or achieving goals, miring us in lives of unfulfilled dreams and unaccomplished tasks. Negative thoughts can be damaging in our spiritual lives particularly, as Satan thrives on our doubts and fears, discouragement and disillusionment.

One of the greatest impediments to spiritual growth is a negative mind. Just as positive thoughts foster growth, negative thoughts stunt progress. Good thoughts stimulate the soul, revitalize the mind and enlighten the heart. They build and lift us, while negative thoughts drag us down. If the best way to get rid of a weed is to plant a flower, then the most efficient way to kill the negative is to cultivate the positive. We improve our lives as we improve our thoughts.

President Ezra Taft Benson said: "Thoughts lead to acts, acts lead to habits, habits lead to character - and our character will determine our eternal destiny." (Come Unto Christ, p. 39.)

We should not be governed by our fears and doubts. As we move into the sunshine of life's challenges and opportunities, we leave behind the gloom of our weaknesses. As we "tend a rose," or plant and nurture positive thoughts, we won't be tempted to dwell upon the negative thoughts that imprison us.

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