I grew up with two older brothers, so name calling and sibling mockery were plentiful. Being called a pansy wasn’t a positive moniker. In fact, it still isn’t. Taunting phrases of “you’re chicken”, “scaredy-cat” or “you’re a pansy” while hesitating during a daunting challenge - like jumping into the deep end of a pool - are debilitating when you’re young! I hadn’t experienced a humorous side to the “pansy taunt” - unless directing it towards others - until Monty Python and the Holy Grail graced our TV screen.
One Saturday morning, flipping through the 13 channels afforded us, we stopped abruptly at the opening credits of a King Arthur-themed moving scrolling through. Unaware of this cult-status film, we watched in awe as medieval knights scoured the English countryside galloping in fields while clapping coconuts together. Insults fill the movie. But the best “ya pansy” sneer is in the Black Knight scene.
King Arthur, gathering knights for his round table, watches as the Black Knight handily defeats his opponent. However, Arthur soon finds this formidable candidate far from accommodating. You can watch the gruesome clip, click here if you like.
Pansies hold a mixed remembrance for me.
So, fast forward to today. Whenever my wife and I buy Spring flowers, I have to admit; I veer away from Pansies. I find the name odd. Robust hardiness doesn’t immediately come to mind. What does is the childhood mocking and, yes, Monty Python. Pansies hold a mixed remembrance for me. Yeah, they’re beautiful and full of color, but every time I see them I think, in an English-Monty-Python-sort-of-accent, “ya pansy!”
The other week, as I was getting into my truck, something caught my attention along the edge of our driveway. Bright yellow, an odd color for an area filled with lawn cabbage and weeds, the petals from a volunteer Pansy were like a lighthouse to a ship. The delicate, juvenile plant reached skyward between a miserable weed patch and a very hard place - the asphalt of our drive. I was quite impressed with the tenacity of such a delicate - and what now seemed to be an inappropriately named flower.
I don’t know how it got there; I certainly wouldn’t have chosen to plant a flower wedged between grass and blacktop.
As I do with a lot of things I wander across, like this ill-rooted pansy, I took a photo and let the entire concept ruminate. Last week a thought came to me as I dealt with a particularly difficult situation at work.
Bloom where you’re planted.
The saying goes, “Bloom where you’re planted”, and this Pansy certainly fulfilled that mandate. Although not even close to ideal, the yellow petals created an amazingly attractive contrast against the black of the pavement, and among the weeds. And then I thought of this: can we do the same?
There are a lot of times in life when we want to escape the arduous, surrounding atmosphere. And when I bristle at the chaffing, the childhood taunt of, “You’re a pansy” comes to my mind. I just want life to relent a bit! Do I just need to suck this up and accept where I am and bloom? But how can I blossom when I’m between a rock and a hard place? I have to admit, I’ve fought those times - quite a bit.
I ran into a good friend last week who shared the sentiment. Telling of the stress of her job, she rolled her eyes and shook her head with a sigh. My thoughts drifted to the Pansy.
But what if those strenuous times are specifically designed for our growth?
Sometimes we become surrounded by difficulties. Some so harsh growth seems elusive or inconceivable. But what if those strenuous times are specifically designed for our betterment? What if calamity is what’s needed for us to purify and refine in ways that peace-filled, fertilized soil can’t afford us?
As I pondered this small, determined plant, I realize it’s entirely possible to be all I’m designed to be in the midst of a not-so-pleasant placement. Did the Pansy think to itself, “Hey, don’t be a you, suck it up, bloom where you’re planted!” I don’t know. But I do know this, it took root and flowered. It did the best it could, given the circumstances. And, it was gorgeous! It caught my eye, and for a considerable time my attention and contemplation. That single, petite plant has made me meditate on deep things of life - far more than any thriving rose bush has.
Maybe we can do the same! Maybe hard, burdensome, laborious times, places and situations are specifically engineered for our growth? And what about others? Perhaps the beauty and grace we could display in those times, places and situations would serve as bright beacons of hope and encouragement for others. Perhaps, “blooming where you’re planted” when jammed between two hard places can catch the attention of others; serving as an example of perseverance and excellence.
Maybe being a pansy isn’t such a bad thing after all!
*I am not advocating for staying in abusive relationships. If you find yourself in a harmful relationship, whether personal or professional, seek counsel immediately.