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The Most Important Relationship of All

Updated: Jun 18, 2019

The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.’

— Michel de Montaigne

We cannot even begin to attempt to explore awareness without discussing the most important of all the relationships that we in our paradoxical humanity can ever pursue; our relationship with ourselves. 

Though this may be an idea that many have never considered and much less prioritised, the truth is that at the very centre of our own individual story, each and every one of us have an ongoing relationship with ourselves. This relationship begins from the moment we become conscious that we are a separate being from our parents and from others, usually thought to be at around 6-months old and can think of ourselves and for ourselves. From this point forward and to a lesser or greater extent depending on our unique psyche, we will grow and develop a view of our self as an individual and more importantly a way of relating to our self - a self-awareness. It is within this self-regard and self-communication that power in our lives and destinies lies. No other relationship can or will control our direction, our fate and our future to the extent that the choices and path we pursue in this intimate dialogue and story do so.  

The only path to wellbeing and peace is to courageously develop a truthful and healthy relationship with ourselves

There is no shortcut, no substitute, no alternative.  

There is no healing for our wounds nor any change and progress available to humanity outside of the acceptance of responsibility for and the healthy pursuit of this relationship. Despite the thousands of deceptive alternatives that we ourselves, our fellow humans and our culture regularly offer us, there is no way to circumvent this crucial truth; that we must learn to become aware of, relate to and govern ourselves in truth and love, in accountability and grace, in self discipline and self encouragement. It is only in accepting this foundational truth and then daily taking its considerable responsibility upon ourselves and prioritising this relationship above all else that we may find the path that leads to healing and life. 

A simple metaphor to describe these things might be to imagine our psyche and wellbeing as our own garden. Just like a garden, our minds and spirits contain their own limited landscape and yet exist in the context of external weather over which we often have minimal or no control - our lives are invariably just the same, subject to external childhoods, backgrounds, experiences, people and problems that we must respond to. 

Just like a garden, if we are to flourish, we as people require thoughtful and ongoing nurture in the way that we facilitate growth, eradicate unwanted incursions and respond daily to outside factors. In accepting the immense import of our relationship with ourself, we are recognising that not only is our internal garden vulnerable and dependent on such nurture, but that we ourselves must become the diligent gardener of our own souls: watering, pruning and planting. 

Only to the extent that we can become a fully responsible, committed and wise gardener will we ever see lasting healing and spiritual growth and find the way that leads to life. To become such a gardener is the most important pursuit of our lives but it is also the most difficult. It is a long, sometimes lonely and often laborious road. 

To remain on it requires an immense amount of time, commitment, tenacity and resilience. 

We cannot find nor survive this road without outside help but we must often walk alone. 

At times it is completely dark and we must simply press on in hope and in faith. 

But we must walk, on and on and on; stumbling, striving, dancing, with an unshakeable resolve that must never die. 


John Richards is an experienced business retreat facilitator, personal growth expert, author of 'Deeper', and director of

He is also a founding director of The Inspiration Programme.

Together with his co-directors Neil Laughton and Angus Wingfield, he leads adventure retreats in places around the world as diverse as Mount Everest and wild South Africa.



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