I’ve seen this metaphor circulating around–stop watering dead plants. They’re usually referencing friendships or relationships. Stop pouring yourself into something where you aren’t getting anything in return. I mean, I get the sentiment, but…
This metaphor bugs me on several levels.
The person who came up with it clearly isn’t a plant person.
If I have a plant that’s died, I don’t blame the plant. I usually do some self-reflection–did I water it too much? too little? Did I put it in the right spot? Had I been neglecting it? Rarely does a plant just die if you’ve been giving it the care it needs.
There are many reasons why a friendship or relationship ends, and it’s usually not one-sided. If I see a relationship withering, I do a lot of reflection and make adjustments if I truly want things to work.
If we’re going to continue on the plant metaphor…
Some plants aren’t in full bloom all year long.
There are seasons where they bloom and seasons where it doesn’t look so good. Does that mean it’s dead? No. It just doesn’t always look the same year-round. Does that mean you dig up the plant and chuck it in the trash? No. Sometimes a little patience is all that’s needed. Wait for the season to end and, chances are, things will turn around. Remember that self-reflection? I’m sure there are seasons you’ve not been in full bloom.
Actually, can we just not compare our friends to plants?
Here’s the thing about friends–you can talk to them and they’ll talk back. You can say “hey, I’ve noticed XYZ lately…everything ok?” It makes sense for you not to talk to your plant, but it doesn’t make sense for you to give a friend the silent treatment because you think the friendship is dead.
Sometimes your friend might seem like a dead plant, but really they’re buried so deep they can’t even pick up on the sunshine. Rather than circulating this whole notion of “stop watering dead plants, you deserve better!” can we give each other the benefit of the doubt and treat our friends like, I don’t know, people? A plant doesn’t have a job or kids or a family or ten hundred other things running through its mind. A plant doesn’t experience stress, anxiety, or depression. So, rather than chalking up your friend as a dead plant, at least give them the human courtesy of reaching out.
None of this passive-aggressive, self-centered mindset that all friendships are plants that exist to serve our sole happiness.
I pour my best into my relationships, even if my “best” doesn’t always look the same from day-to-day. If we assume people are doing their best and adjust our expectations, we’d find not every friendship looks the same, and that’s ok. Some grow a little, some grow a lot, some last a season, some last longer. Can we please please stop weeding people out on the premise of them not doing enough for us? We’ve all got enough on our plates without having to worry about being the biggest flower in every friendship’s garden.
It might not be the prettiest all the time, but I am not a dead plant friend. And no one should treat you like a dead plant either.