‘Bloom Where You’re Planted’ as a Thought Stopping Cliche

‘Bloom Where You’re Planted’ as a Thought Stopping Cliche August 12, 2016

Undermuchgraceby Cindy Kunsman cross posted from her blog Under Much Grace

All images by Cindy Kunsman at Under Much Grace and used with permission. Article is 4 pages long.

I’d heard that phrase before, but even now and even with my positive experience with the concept many years later, the phrase still connotes something negative for me.
The last post detailed my very good experience with the sage advice of determination to bloom and grow, even if it’s not where you want to be or the conditions are not that favorable.ion

Even so, my mind still goes back to a discussion at Maureen’s pretty little Cape Cod in Brooklyn Park when she leveled it at me. She doesn’t even live there anymore, but a tiny part of me still finds itself in that place as my first flash of an image when I hear that phrase. In many ways, I think of it as just one of the parallels that my church used to the Fundamentalist Mormon imperative for women to “keep sweet.” We were no different, really. The expectations for women were very much the same, but we just didn’t go to the same lengths as the FLDS to enforce that saccharine. It wasn’t really sweetness anyway, just like Sweet and Low – a fake imitation of something else. It even speaks of being low(ly and humble). Oh, so appropriate.

Sweet and LowAnd oddly, during that same visit, she asked me if I’d been partaking of too much sugar so as to dismiss my growing angst. That was an attempt at at least a triple whammy shaming tactic. First, my concerns could be dismissed as mood swings from sugar highs and lows if it happened to be true. My concerns and accusations of spiritual abuse from church leadership could be blamed on the white death. The next question concerned whether I was taking enough B-vitamin supplementation, as they are needed to help the body use carbohydrate regardless of your intake of refined sugars. There was potential for a second sin which gave way to a third sin – a verboten one.

I also knew well of the discussions among women of Watchman Nee’s idea that if you know that if one behavior causes you to be given to sin, you’re doubly guilty. What do you do if you’re short with your children because you were up with them while they were sick the night before? Following Babywise in the right way was supposed to fix all of that, so someone must have missed a chapter about how to keep yourself from sinning even if you’re tired from doing all that you need to do. Was I sinning by working strings of twelve hour shifts in a row? I remember that implication in one discussion and what I thought about it. I half wondered if the person who asked me about it was suggesting that I should quit my ICU job.

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  • AuntKaylea

    Thank you for sharing this. As an Illinois native who now lives in Texas (and is married to someone from Pennsylvania), the analogy of the Mountain Laurel really connected with me. Thinking about how my life has flourished since leaving my old church has had all kinds of residual guilt and self blame for me. It’s hard to break the habit of years of believing that a failure to thrive within the church was my own fault. I heard so many versions of “Bloom where you’re planted” over the years.

    Thinking of it as the wrong soil is incredibly liberating, particularly as it gives me tools to communicate to people I care about how my leaving is not a condemnation, but based on my own valid need. While I may believe that others too, may thrive in other environs, I have no desire to judge for a choice to be there or remain. After all, I made that same choice as an adult for a couple of decades, trying to change me when the soil just wasn’t designed for me to be healthy and grow.

  • Leigh Andrews

    Most of the time, others are interested in having you see or pursue options that benefit them and that might not be the best for you. There are times when one has to make the best of a situation, but it is also helpful to keep in mind a quote from Frederick Douglass: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

    If you can get people to self-flagellate rather than have to act to punish them, they are a lot easier to control. The concern is fixing the blame, not the problem. Read Robert Lipton on loaded language. The book that you want is “Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism”. A lot of what goes on religion is aimed at reducing people’s ability to think critically.

    I didn’t understand it until years later, but I gave up on religion when I was about 12, over the Easter collection. The pastor wanted a minimum amount of money from each family that would be worth $150 now. This was right after he had told us that he was taking his second trip to the Holy Land that year.

  • I first thing that I did when I started a blog was list LIfton’s eight criteria of thought reform in the sidebar. I will never forget the day that the exit counselor invited us to her house “to give us information we needed.” After watching several videos to prep us for the bad news, she opened up her copy to the dreaded Chapter 22 and read the description right out of the book without embellishment. I’ll never be the same! It was a perfect description of how that church operated. One of the things they did best was the Loaded Language — and they play on the fuzzy logic that results from their misuse of their terms. What it means to most people sounds nice, but it’s really a weapon.

  • In a recent experience, I found myself in soil that was half toxic and half really good. I toughed out a couple of years, partly for my own personal growth and partly to be an agent of change. I accomplished some good things just like I did in that “blooming” church, but i hit a tipping point that made it clear that it wasn’t worth the investment. At first and partly because of my own willfulness, I felt disappointed, but the relief I feel after leaving it behind is so well worth it.

    I am grateful for your comment, and I love your phrase of “own valid need.” That packs several things into a concise package, doesn’t it? There is nothing wrong with getting away from conditions that are difficult if there are plenty of other options, alternatives and opportunities.

    Reading your comment and relating to the “couple of decades” of striving to change things and change me reminds me of normal psychosocial development. In our twenties and thirties, we are driven to forge connects with other people — and especially for women, it is strongly driven physiologically. I’m in awe about how shifting into my forties and my fifites which will happen in a month or so has come with a decrease in that intense life focus on relationships into a broader perspective of social responsibility and passing on what you can to others, especially your kids if you have them.

    I just happened to see that pattern in how you concluded your comment, thought of it as a healthy sign of that cool and predictable growth, and I’m so glad that you felt the freedom to find better soil that could give you what you needed so that you could flourish. I often wonder how much of that drive to stay and bloom in one place comes from that human drive that helps enable us to bond with our mates when we’re young, our workmates and friends, and nurture our children. I think a part of that enhances that desire to stay put and try, but when the environment or too many people in it are toxic, I’m glad that people can find the strength to transplant themselves.

  • Thanks so much for these comments. I didn’t realize how long this post went on until I saw it cross posted here, and I’m so glad that I wrote it. It didn’t realize how much I still connect with it until I started writing. Thanks for the feedback and the opportunity to get some value out of it all. 🙂 That’s the best part of a bad experience with the frustration of this religious junk that’s well meant by the people who cook it up.

  • AuntKaylea

    Happy early birthday! May this decade be the most joyful one for you yet. – and I agree, my forties have been so liberating.

    What you have written above reminds me of Susan Cain’s “Quiet” and some of the book’s discussion of the psycho-social pressure to act as an extrovert for females too. (I remember reading that and blurting out “no wonder my mother never seemed to like me!” at one point. . . )

    Your writing always helps me find more kindness for myself, and inspires me to offer more to others as well. I hope you will keep sharing such things with us.