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Stop Hugging the Cactus

Lead Again
3 min readFeb 23, 2022


There are certain people, places, things, and ideas in each person’s life that tend to hurt them the closer they are to them. Such things are, figuratively speaking, emotional cacti.

Maybe it’s the parent who uses guilt to try to manipulate or motivate. Maybe it’s the emotionally unavailable or distant spouse. Maybe it’s the friend who uses you, but isn’t there for you when things are tough. Maybe it’s the client who always complains but never pays on time.

Maybe it’s that church where you can’t connect to the transcendental or the Divine. Maybe it’s the job that’s siphoning away your joy. Maybe it’s the hometown that, while comfortably familiar, is full of unhappy memories.

Maybe it’s the pictures on your walls of the spouse who abandoned you. Maybe it’s the mess in your garage or attic you can’t let go of but never clean up, either. Maybe it’s a wardrobe or closet full of unflattering clothes you just can’t admit don’t fit or aren’t age appropriate or are no longer fashionable.

Maybe it’s your attachment to the way you see yourself or others. Maybe it’s your refusal to forgive or accept forgiveness. Maybe it’s your inability to love yourself or others or accept others’ love. Maybe it’s your political opinions. Maybe it’s your attachment to your ethnic, cultural, or national identity.

Any of these things can be a cactus. The closer you hold these things, the more deeply they might be hurting you. You might be pierced and bleeding in ways you don’t even realize.

Your life force; your energy; your joy; your will to adapt, change, and grow; and the connections to sources of meaning, value, and purpose in life can be slowly, imperceptibly drained out of you by a thousand needles embedded in your heart and mind.

The crazy thing is that you genuinely 😍 LOVE 😍 the cactus. At some point, the cactus may have been good for you — a source of refreshment in the desert that opened itself to restore and rejuvenate you. As you have come to depend on it, to cling to it tightly for your very life, you have accepted the discomfort it has brought into your life.

You need the cactus. There is, of course, very little rain in the desert of your life. So, without the cactus, you’ll die. Or so it seems. So, what are a few needles here and there, right?

But why are you in the desert?

Why don’t you leave? Why do you accept only the meager shade and scarce water a cactus provides? Why don’t you seek an oasis? Why don’t you leave the desert entirely?

Maybe you have become lost, or you have given up hope that you can escape the desert. Maybe you’re comfortable with the cactus, and you have accepted that the nourishment and shelter it provides you, barely adequate though it may be, is worth the price of the pain and of watering the cactus with your blood.

Whatever the reason you still are hugging the cactus, may I offer you an alternative?

Consider me a fellow wanderer in this desert. I bear the horrific scars of many love affairs with all manner of cacti. I am sunburned and weather worn. I also happen to have, however, a pair of camels and an intimate knowledge of how to both survive in and how to return from this desert in which you now find yourself.

I can lead you to oases, guide you to greener lands, and make your journey easier. I can introduce you to other nomads who will shelter you in their tents, heal your wounds with poultices and prayers, and give you safe opportunities to find restorative rest. My tribe is friendly and we know your desert well.

We ask that you begin by doing one simple thing: stop hugging the cactus.

Start your journey here: (615) 669–6566
… or here:



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