Which tree do you want to be?
Christmas Tree Orange Blossom Tree Manchineel Tree
I never considered that people and trees had any similarities until I heard a speaker make the comparison between Christmas trees decorated with ornaments and people who decorate themselves by pretending to be different (in thought, behavior, attitude, etc.) from who they really are.
After giving some thought and a little bit of research to the topic, I concluded that there are three trees from which most of us alternately take character cues:
First, there is the thoughtfully decorated Christmas tree which, as the speaker said, is a good illustration of how we sometimes cover ourselves with characteristics that don’t honestly reflect who we really are. The facade can range in significance from something small like faking your taste in music to something more important like feigning religious faith to be accepted by a person or group.
It’s worth noting that the undecorated evergreen or spruce tree was just fine without the Christmas garland and ornaments. In fact, I would say it was most attractive in its natural setting, green and vibrant, without the artificial extras weighing on its branches. And, so it is with people. We’re much better off being real and natural.
Then, there is the orange blossom tree. It naturally produces pretty flowers and permeates the air with a lovely fragrance--while also yielding sweet, healthy fruit that offers comfort and nourishment to others. In human terms, my mom is an orange blossom tree. I hope there is someone in your life who fits this description. And, if you are like me, this is a tree you aspire to be as well. I could go on and on about the beauty and value of orange blossom trees. Obviously, we would all benefit if more people took on “orange blossom tree” traits.
Finally, there is the Manchineel tree. I never heard of the tree before writing this article. I discovered it when I researched “dangerous trees.” The Manchineel tree doesn’t look threatening at all. It looks like any other tree—in fact a small green fruit grows on it like an apple tree. However, it is one of the most toxic trees on earth. The sap from its trunk causes blisters to the skin. Ingesting its fruit can be fatal, and burning its bark emits smoke that can cause blindness. The most frightening thing about the tree is that it looks harmless, and unless there is a warning posted, most people don’t realize that the tree is poisonous until they’ve been harmed by it. Unfortunately, at some point we’ve all encountered toxic people who initially appeared to be okay... maybe even kind and attractive. And dare I say, all of us (at one time or another—even if for a moment) have given off some toxins of our own.
At first glance, it’s difficult to distinguish the kind of “tree” a person may be. How do you know if the person you just met is someone who often decorates themselves to look a certain way in a given situation? Is he/she attractive, but when you get close to them you see that they are consistently toxic? Is he/she beautiful because of what they naturally produce and what they bring to those around them? It’s good to ask these questions about people we interact with, but it’s more important that we answer these questions about ourselves.
Moms, please share this lesson with your daughters. My hope is that this “tree study” will remind us to be genuine and true to who we are—not allowing the culture to dictate who we should be or convince us to pretend to be someone we are not. I hope also that we can aspire to inward beauty that outwardly blossoms and benefits others, and protect ourselves from those who would do us harm.