Helping the butterfly transform
Updated: Oct 22, 2018
I've been avoiding blogging. Who wants to write a blog when that precious time could be spent writing the next book, right? Yet sometimes there are things I'd like to write and share which aren't big enough in themselves to turn into a book but they're too big for a social media post.
So here I am, taking another step in my journey as a writer. I plan to write occasional posts about a variety of themes close to my heart: #personaltransformation, #emotionalintelligence, #yoga, #relationships and #environmentalissues (including, but not restricted to #water). Being a bit of a #history buff, I'll likely throw in a few historical references too.
For this first post, I want to explore the idea of helping others through their life journey.
Does the butterfly even need help?
We all need help from time to time as we bumble our way through this experience called life. Many of us find it hard to ask for help yet, paradoxically, most of us are willing to help out when asked. Some are comfortable offering a hand when they see an obvious need, others make it their mission in life to seek out struggling souls and take them under their wing. The desire to help speaks volumes for the innate kindness of humanity. But is it always a kindness?
Years ago I received a short fable, typed on an A4 sheet, which I've traced back to one of my favourite authors, Paulo Coelho. Actually, on his blog, Paulo credits Sonaira D’Avila as the originator of the short story which Paulo adapted.
The Lesson of the Butterfly
A man spent hours watching a #butterfly struggling to emerge from its cocoon. It managed to make a small hole, but its body was too large to get through it. After a long struggle, it appeared to be exhausted and remained absolutely still. The man decided to help the butterfly and, with a pair of scissors, he cut open the cocoon, thus releasing the butterfly. However, the butterfly’s body was very small and wrinkled and its wings were all crumpled. The man continued to watch, hoping that, at any moment, the butterfly would open its wings and fly away. Nothing happened; in fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its brief life dragging around its shrunken body and shrivelled wings, incapable of flight.
What the man – out of kindness and his eagerness to help – had failed to understand was that the tight cocoon and the efforts that the butterfly had to make in order to squeeze out of that tiny hole were Nature’s way of training the butterfly and of strengthening its wings. Sometimes, a little extra effort is precisely what prepares us for the next obstacle to be faced.
Anyone who refuses to make that effort, or gets the wrong sort of help, is left unprepared to fight the next battle and never manages to fly off to their destiny.
We don't like to witness pain and struggle. Charities know this. They know that showing images of destitute refugees and starving children on television will elicit more donations than words on a page ever could. When we see struggle of any sort, we want to solve it, fix it. Parents, who can't stand to watch their child struggle for acceptance in the school yard, may encourage (at best) or force (at worst) other students to be friends with their child; happily married friends try to match make for their unlucky-in-love single friend; people of faith attempt to convert those of no faith (or those of a different faith); people constantly bail out their 'financial disaster' sibling or child. The list is endless. But the child who has so-called friends because his or her parents coerced or bribed them into hanging out together, doesn't have a chance to build the strength of character that comes from not belonging. Instead they learn from their parents how to manipulate others to get what they want. The financial disaster never learns to manage their finances while there are people willing to prop them up.
Instead of trying to fix everyone else, maybe what we really need is to become more accepting of our own discomfort in the face of others' struggles.
That's not to say we can't offer assistance and be available to help others when asked. Please do, this world needs all the kindness it can get! But we can't rip people out of their cocoon, forcing them into a state of being for which they are not yet ready. Taking control and 'saving' someone may just result in killing them with kindness.
All alone together in our cocoons
Personal transformation is a theme I explore in Peace of the Puzzle. Like the protagonist, Elena, I experienced a series of difficult relationships and many years of self-doubt. Looking back, it was all of those challenging times, all the painful experiences, which helped to shape who I am today. The experiences I am yet to have will shape who I will become. So I am grateful for them. At times I have needed to be reminded by others to view my experiences with #gratitude. Human nature being what it is, I will likely need reminding again at some future point when I am feeling sorry for myself. For me, these gratitude messengers are worth their weight in gold. They offered advice when I was struggling. They didn't commiserate with me and let me wallow in my sorrow. Instead they gently beat me over the head with kind reminders to look for the silver lining - then left me to crawl out of the cocoon when I was ready.
We're all in this life together. We all need each other's support. But we also need to allow each other to come out of our cocoons and spread our wings when the time is right for us.
What do you think? Do you agree?