One day a man found the cocoon of a butterfly. He checked on the cocoon everyday for many days. One day, he noticed that a small opening appeared and heard the butterfly inside. For several hours the man watched as the butterfly struggled to force its body through the little hole. Suddenly the butterfly stopped and appeared to be stuck. The man decided to help the butterfly by enlarging the hole and making it easier for the butterfly to get out. While the butterfly was able to emerge easily from the cocoon, it had a swollen body and shriveled wings.
The man did not think anything of this and sat waiting for the wings to enlarge to support the butterfly. But that did not happen. The butterfly spent the rest of its life unable to fly; crawling around with tiny wings and a swollen body. Although the man intended to help the butterfly, he actually stunted the butterfly's growth. The man did not understand that the restricting design of the cocoon and the struggle needed by the butterfly to get through the small opening were nature's way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly to its wings, strengthening them for flight once out of the cocoon. Without the struggle, the butterfly's wings never develop the strength to fly.
Likewise, our struggles in life develop our strengths. I know it feels great to help people. Just like the man in the story, we want to be helpful, we want to lend a hand to folks who are struggling, we want to make the way easier for our kids than it was for us. But we need to stop and think whether the help we are giving is actually helping to develop strength and character or is it ultimately a hindrance? I know it can be hard to let people become frustrated, disappointed or angry, but...it is during those times that learning, perseverance and character building takes place. We walk a fine line of knowing when to be helpful and when to let those we care about struggle against the cocoon. We need to let them struggle not because we don't care, but because we do. It is the struggle that develops strength.
I had a great opportunity to learn another lesson this week. I listened to the audio version of Robert M. Pirsig's book, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" and was struck by one sentence that has been turning over and over in my mind since I heard it. "We always condemn most in others, he thought, that which we most fear in ourselves".
I think the reason my brain latched onto this particular statement is because I have been listening more closely to how I talk. Not the particular words, or even the particular subject matter, just one very general classification, is the talk positive or negative in nature?
What set me on this path of personal observation were the comments of one particularly loud fellow that I happened to be in the same room with one morning. Though I had no interest in hearing what this gentleman had to say, he was the type of person who did not seem to know the accepted rules of using his inside voice. So, whether I wanted to or not, I heard his on-going complaints about his vacation to St. Thomas. From the plane ride there to the plane ride home, this person could not find one positive thing to say. Then it struck me, most of the conversations I hear are negative in nature. What I find most fascinating is that some people do nothing but complain, but do it in a calm, even sing song style that it does not sound like complaining until you listen to their words. Then I wondered how often I engage in this same type of negativity? What I condemn most in others is that which I most fear in myself.
So, I consider this statement I heard a wake up / shake up call for me. Rather than just talking to talk, I am giving more thought to whether the words I am going to say will encourage another person or contribute to the ongoing negativity they are most likely exposed to. We have the ability to change people's minds, attitudes and lives with what we say. Understanding this, I feel more of a responsibility to think before I speak.
"The tongue...with it we bless Lord and Father and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth blessings and cursings. My brothers and sisters, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening fresh and salt water?" - James 3:8-11
So as you go through this week, take notice to what you hate in other people, then take a look at yourself. See anything familiar?