I recently learned that most of a plant’s growth occurs at night – in the darkness, without sunshine and warmth. This surprised me, as I assumed growth would occur in the brightness of day when the sun’s rays are reaching the leaves and warming the soil surrounding the roots. Of course most plants need a varying degree of sunlight for photosynthesis to occur, but the majority of actual cell generation and growth occurs after the sun goes down.

As I thought about this, I realized how reflective this is of human growth. As you look at your life and reflect on periods of growth, did growth occur because everything was going well and the light was shining brightly? Or did the growth occur because there was a period of darkness … a loss, a death, an unwelcome change, or some other event that took you to a place of darkness?

It’s a natural human instinct to avoid darkness. We immediately turn on the light when we walk into a dark room. We use nightlights in hallways and dimly lit areas. Many people are afraid of the dark and do whatever they can to avoid it. Perhaps those same tendencies apply to mental health and emotional well-being. When faced with grief or pain, people turn to addictions, habits, relationships, or any number of means to avoid the darkness of their emotions and keep themselves in the sunlight. What if we are like plants and our true growth occurs in the darkness? What would it be like to face the darkness, trusting that the growth about to occur will make the sun that much brighter and warmer on the other side? In the words of author and speaker Brenè Brown, “Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

Wanda Jeffcoat, MS

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