03 Apr The Butterfly Effect
I had the honor of seeing the great Martha Beck speak in Savannah earlier this year. I am a huge fan of hers and as life coaches go she is a pretty spectacular one. I mean when Oprah looks to you for help you are doing something right. Right?!? I got quite a bit out of her talk but one part struck a very deep and personal chord with me. It has stayed with me ever since and I want to share it.
Martha told a story about the butterfly. Now as someone who has spent my entire life pursuing personal growth I’m no stranger to butterfly metaphors and analogies. The butterfly is probably one of the most popular symbols of transformation. When she mentioned the butterfly I was expecting metaphor or an inspiring quote but she went on to tell me some things I had never heard before.
I’m paraphrasing but it turns out that getting out of that chrysalis is no easy task. In fact it is a pretty major struggle and they don’t always make it out. The interesting part is that if you help them, if you cut the chrysalis to get them out, they die. In fact, the longer and harder they struggle to get out the longer the butterfly lives. They are DESIGNED to struggle and that struggle serves a purpose for their survival.
That thought struck me because in the past few years I’ve been through some very trying times personally. In those times I found myself repeatedly asking “Why does it have to be so hard? Why does it have to be painful and difficult?” The answer seems clear now – BECAUSE IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE! Sometimes life is hard because its supposed to be. Sometimes things happen in your life and the lives of people that you love that are unfair, sad and painful and that just don’t seem to make any sense. It is how you handle those times that will define what kind of person you are. Your character. I know for me doing my best through those situations, finding joy and humor amidst the chaos and pain – it has made me strong. Now I know I can not only survive anything but continue to find happiness in the midst of it. What a gift.
I also relate to the impulse of the outside observer to want to cut the chrysalis to save the butterfly and make it easier. I have done that in my own life too and the results were equally bad. Maybe the best thing we can do for anyone that is struggling is to let them struggle. Make it okay that they are going through a hard time. Be there to support them in any way we can without compromising what they are learning. That is the greatest gift we can give and they will be better for it. I find this especially hard to practice when it comes to my children. How badly I want to spare them from pain, hurt feelings, rejection and disappointment. Yet I know I am cheating them out of developing the kind of personal resilience they will need in this world by doing that. They need to develop character.
So when difficult moments and experiences happen for us and for those we love. Remember the butterfly – and know that strength and a beauty all it’s own await on the other side.