In “Streams in the Desert ” by Mrs. Chas. S. Cowman there is a story about a boy who finds a cocoon just before it metamorphosis into a butterfly. The boy brings it into the house and a few days later, sure enough, it started moving. He watched it with curiosity as it started its journey emerging from a cocoon to a butterfly. The first wing appeared after a long struggle and it was beautiful. The boy watched intently as he waited for the other wing to appear. He felt helpless as he saw the butterfly struggling to free the other wing. Finally the boy became inpatient and decided that bringing the cocoon into the house had somehow dried it where the butterfly could not free its other wing, so he took a pair of scissors and took a very small clip off the top of the cocoon. When he clipped the cocoon the other wing very quickly emerged, but when it did it was still wet and all shriveled up. The butterfly drug the wing around for a few hours and then died. It never was able to fly.
The story was to point out that we do the same thing to people that we see struggling. We want to make it easier for them, when in fact the struggle is what helps them grow and mature and become more beautiful as a person. God equipped us to struggle and with the struggle comes self-confidence and strength to overcome adversity so we can live a fuller more productive life. Parents often will clip their children’s cocoon’s when they don’t allow them to struggle to overcome obstacles in their lives. The problem is, the world is a hard place and if our children do not learn how to struggle at home and overcome adversity, where they have a soft place to fall, how are they going to survive in the world when they leave home. Parenting with Love and Logic allows kids to learn how to make good choices. When they don’t, they struggle by paying the consequences, which helps them grow and mature. That is the way real life is, and one of our responsibilities, as parents, is to prepare our kids for the real world
If we find ourselves taking on other people’s stuff we are probably trying to clip their cocoon. It is important to respect people’s boundaries and it is not our job to go around trying to rescue them. If we are uncomfortable with seeing people struggle, it is probably because we do not understand the value of struggling. When I recognized this destructive behavior in myself, I had to work hard on correcting it. It was not easy, but has helped me look at people differently and realize people are stronger than I have given them credit for. I can come along side of someone and have empathy without trying to rescue them. It has also given me a new perspective on my own struggles and knowing that in the struggle growth and maturity occur if I stay the course and do the work.
Next time you see someone struggling, remember it is not a bad thing. Give yourself permission to come along side and support and encourage without rescuing. It will give you a newfound freedom to accept people right where they are and watch them grow and mature through the struggle.
Vickie Parker, LMFT