Personal Growth

Pruning Roses

Lately I have been thinking a lot about pruning roses.

About how the rose thrives when its roots are strong, reaching into and meshing with a rich soil full of the right nutrients. About the skill and art of pruning the rose, finding the place where the rose is strongest and healthiest to make the cut, so the growth that emerges from the pain of the shears strengthens the plant.

As I thought, I realized something else. Something I knew from pruning countless roses but had never really thought about in terms of living my life. That pruning…real pruning…doesn’t cut away just the remnants of the bloom…something that has outlived its usefulness, but real pruning cuts away healthy, living parts of the plant in expectation that what replaces it will be better and stronger, the entire plant healthier from the loss and the healing.

As I continued my thinking, I came to realize I too often cling to things that are seemingly healthy out of fear or indecision, rather than make the cut and allow new growth to start. Thus, I am today less than I could be, and in one sense may forever be less than I might have been.

I look at myself as a plant in need of pruning…to of course search out the dead and the useless, but more important, to find the living things I cling to that take my strength without renewing me, without leading to growth and strength. I need to cut away things that prevent me from being strong and healthy and vibrant. I need to define myself clearly, and to live aware and conscious of my choices.

I need to rediscover my roots, tend to them, and place them in soil that is equally strong and vibrant. I sense that even my roots need pruning, defining, and that I need to look carefully at the soil that surrounds me.

The part that frightens me, that causes doubt and inaction, is that I am not yet sure what I seek, what I am growing toward. Perhaps I cannot let go of the past enough to go forward and move toward a new set of blooms. That speaks to my roots…the foundation of everything, and to the soil that surrounds them.

Strangely, or perhaps because the forces that guide this world decided it was my time, others have chosen to start the pruning process for me. People I have cared for, helped, and supported, have chosen to pull away from me because I can’t meet their needs. Or maybe because I was trying to meet too many needs other than my own.

I must prune myself if I am to grow, cut away people and things that have been healthy for me in the past, things that are healthy even today, if I am to move forward. I know my choices will be hard and that I will feel pain from the cutting away of things important to me. But to remain stagnant and weak is to die a slow death.

It is time to be my own gardener

13 replies »

  1. I really enjoyed this post, Michael. Never quite thought about pruning roses in this context, but it makes perfect sense.

    Winter has always been my favourite season, as I think of it as a time of renewal. Time to get rid of the “old and dead” things and start afresh with Spring. Seeing bare trees in my garden inspires me to appreciate life.

    But then, I have never been very normal in how I view things. Could just be my weird point of view.


  2. Helpful insights for times of transition. Makes me realize it might be time for me to spend some serious time in my garden. While I’m there, I’ll remember that you are in yours and send good vibes.


  3. Very moving. I could completely relate.

    And yet…I couldn’t help wondering as I read ‘Pruning Roses’, how much of us would we cut off if we were able to do so as simply as cutting back roses?

    The part that we felt we could easily do away with? The part we never really cared for? Or the part that made us who we are today – good and bad?

    The sum of who we are, IS because of the thorns and dead branches of our past, not necessarily the pretty blossoms. The mistakes, the regrets, the sometime friends, the past lovers, the ex-bosses…all of those and more.

    While you suggest that they may ALL need pruning for you to grow and move forward – Will you be better off if you lose those parts of yourself?

    I wonder….


    • The issue is letting go and moving forward. Because we are all the product of our experiences, it is how we build on our strongest points that define us. The risk in not letting go is to be held back by things that weight us down…yet likely served an important purpose at one time. Look at my piece “Glass Bottles” for a perspective on a way to let go of things past without losing them, and without being weighed down by them.


  4. Very interesting, Mike. Thank you for sharing and for allowing us to see your writings (engineers don’t get a chance to know many real writers).

    As I read this, I thought “Which way is better: allow the world to happen to you, or try to influence the world around you?” I don’t think that the answeris cut and dried, but is different depending on which part of life we’re talking about.


  5. The Bible on pruning:
    Jesus speaking…
    John 15 (New International Version)
    The Vine and the Branches
    1″I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
    5″I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
    9″As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command. 15I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17This is my command: Love each other
    1 Corinthians 13 (New International Version)
    1If I speak in the tongues[a] of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames,[b] but have not love, I gain nothing.
    4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
    8Love never fails.

    **God is the gardner not us, and apart from him we are like dead branches**


  6. Very well written and love the pruning metaphor. The line “The part that frightens me, that causes doubt and inaction, is that I am not yet sure what I seek, what I am growing toward” really speaks to me, as I would imagine it would to many who are pondering making changes (or realize they need to) in their lives. Thank you for sharing.


  7. Your last line is quite powerful, Michael, and the pruning metaphor quite apt. It carries the weight of your thoughts nicely.

    What’s missing is anything specific. An example of someone who “pulled away from you” or an incident where you couldn’t “let go of the past” could be the center of this piece.

    The best essays tend to work like short stories, and are almost always built around a single event. The writer puts the reader into the scene, which you’ve done with the pruning [though I’d like to see that flower and hear the sound the clipper makes when you dead head it]. The writer ponders the problem, goes through some process of examination, and then leaps to the conclusion, carrying the reader along with him.

    Hope I’ve been of some help.


  8. The analogy is perfect and exactly what I have been feeling as well. Pruning to become healthy. And the realization that “Thus, I am today less than I could be, and in one sense may forever be less than I might have been.” Beautifully said.


  9. Very nice. I love this line: “The part that frightens me, that causes doubt and inaction, is that I am not yet sure what I seek, what I am growing toward.”

    Exactly, what I needed to read this morning. Thanks for sharing it. ~Reesy


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