what do you need to thrive?
are you an orchid, or a dandelion?
In 2019, Dr. Thomas Boyce published The Orchid and the Dandelion. In this book, he puts forward the genetic theory that some children are orchids and some are dandelions.
An orchid is highly sensitive and needs nearly the perfect environment to succeed. While a dandelion can thrive in almost any environment. He believes that this is due to our genetic makeup. That means that Dr. Boyce - and others who agree - assume that these flower “labels” aren’t something that we can control and are based in our biology.
It may or may not be true that we are either orchid or dandelion. Some of us may be stronger than others and more naturally resilient. And some of us may be weaker naturally.
However, if we believe that we possess within us the power to change, grow, and transform. To what extent do we think we can change?
Cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Caroline Leaf, in her book Switch On Your Brain provides research that shows that our genetics, and even our DNA can change as a result of changing our thinking.
This is just what research points to. What about God? Is there a part of us that God himself can’t or won’t change?
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Romans 12:2 NLT
in Romans, the Bible defines God’s transformation this way:
transform // μεταμορφόω // metamorphóō
to change in a manner visible to others, to fundamentally change character or condition.
God wants to transform everything about us. Including our genes if necessary.
This isn’t a review of Dr. Boyce’s book. But the idea behind his book generated some thoughts.
Why am I saying this up front? Because it’s probably a bad idea to be an orchid. By birth or by choice.
Orchids are the largest family of flowering plants on earth.
There are four times as many orchid species as there are mammal species, and two times as many as there are bird species.
Most people are probably like orchids. Orchids are common. In fact, we all have parts of us that are like orchids. Sensitive parts, offended parts, even weak parts. Passivity and victimhood seem to be the core values of many people we encounter.
Most orchids only grow when attached to something else.
In the wild, the majority of orchids need a tree, or some kind of external support structure to grow.
Orchid people are like this too. They need someone to hold their hand, comfort them and always give them a “next step.” If someone isn’t assisting them, supporting them, or encouraging them, they’re not doing anything. They might be grown adults, but they always need a parent. That parent may be their boss, friend or spouse. But they are co-dependent and their health is based on someone else’s strength. Not their own.
Orchids require a lot of light, but just the right amount.
Orchids need brightness, but they’ll die if they are exposed to direct sunlight. The must be in a bright place, but not too bright. And they need 12-14 hours of light per day.
Orchids are fine with coaching. As long as you don’t make them feel bad, or correct them in any way. They want your attention, but only in a way that makes them feel good about themselves. If your voice becomes too intense or confrontational, they’ll wilt.
Orchids need an exact amount of water.
Too little water and they’ll die, too much and they’ll drown.
Orchids are like the princess and the pea. It’s either too much, or not enough. Orchids may appear strong. But they are deeply sensitive to the slightest things. When you’re working with an orchid, you’re either micromanaging them, or abandoning them, nothing you do will ever be helpful enough for them.
Orchids require shallow planting
Because orchids are so fragile, they can’t be planted too deep, otherwise they will never grow.
Orchids are prepared to quit at any moment if it gets too hard. They don’t want to be great, they want to be comfortable. Their focus is happiness and homeostasis. If that is interrupted, they’ll whither and die. When it’s difficult, you shouldn’t expect them to show up. They’re good at working when they want to work. Otherwise, don’t expect too much out of them because they need to be on the road by 5PM.
Orchids embody Proverbs 24:10
“If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.”
Orchids need the perfect parents, perfect boss, perfect spouse and perfect environment. Otherwise they won’t make it.
Dandelions always grow.
Dandelions can continue to grow and germinate with ground temperatures as low as 50°. They can also grow in places that no other plant can grow.
Dandelions can thrive in harsh conditions. They’ll grow in good and bad environments. A person who is a dandelion is going to grow regardless of their environment. Not because conditions are right, but because they want to grow.
Dandelions are unstoppable.
Drought and bad soil don’t affect dandelions that much. They can get up to 10 inches across, and their seeds can spread several miles. Mowing over them or pulling them out by hand will have no long-term effect.
The harder it gets, the stronger a dandelion gets. They don’t get bitter, they get better. They can flourish where other people can’t. They are the ones who positively persevere through any obstacle. They are persistent.
“Persistence is doing what you know to do, even when doing what you know to do doesn’t seem to be getting any results.” // @keithcraft
Dandelions have deep roots.
The roots of a dandelion can be up to 1/2 inch thick, and 10 inches deep.
Dandelions bloom where they are planted. (Psalm 92:13). Dandelions go deep and stay there. They don’t do that because the conditions are right, they do that because it’s who they are. Dandelions believe the best in others when the worst has been displayed. When it gets hard, you can count on a dandelion to show up. Often, they’re the only people that do. (Proverbs 17:17)
Dandelions can’t be killed.
A dandelion can regrow from a section of root as short as an inch. The only way to permanently remove dandelions is to remove the entire root.
Dandelions seem frail and light, but because of how strong their roots are, they’ll always grow back. A dandelion is in the right place, at the right time, with the right people (other dandelions) and the right things will happen for them. They believe all things are going to work together for their good (Romans 8:28) and don’t grow weary (Galatians 6:9)
I’m pretty sure James was a dandelion.
“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”
// James 1:2-4
Dandelions can thrive in any environment. They know that the difficulty they experience is practice for their personal greatness.
dandelion or orchid?
I’ve been an orchid before. When I was going into 3rd grade, my mom held me back because she thought the boys were “too mean.” True story.
Maybe we have genetic sensitivities. Maybe we have had bad experiences that have made us co-dependent on others. Maybe we’re insecure and scared of vulnerability.
If we know that about ourselves, can’t we also choose to not make that our narrative?
Maybe I was born an orchid. Maybe you were. Maybe we all are. I want to be a dandelion so that’s what I’ll strive to do. There’s too many orchids already.