Often, I’ve heard friends ask: Why do I have to go through this? Why can’t it be a little easier for me? Why is it so easy for that other person?
It seems appropriate at the time to give a spiritual explanation about becoming stronger so we have the will to fight the larger obstacles that are about to come our way. But this explanation is never really convincing enough, especially if one is going through a really tough time. I recently read this beautiful story about a butterfly and its metaphors for why we need struggle in our lives.
A man once came across the cocoon of a butterfly. He kept an eye on it. One day, a small opening appeared in it. The man sat patiently and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body out of that little hole. Then it seemed tired. It stopped making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could, and it could go no further. Or at least the man thought that’s how the butterfly must be thinking.
The man decided to help the butterfly out of its misery. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings.
The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time. But this did not happen. Instead, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.
What the man did not realize that in his attempt to make life easier for the butterfly, he had actually crippled its future. Nature has its ways of doing things and going against nature is bound to lead to problems. The restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were nature’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings. This process, though extremely painful for the butterfly, would make it flight-ready.
It was very important that the butterfly go through this struggle in order to achieve freedom and fly into the sun. The butterfly may not know this. The man who cut the cocoon certainly did not know it. Similarly, it’s possible that we don’t know why we go through certain difficulties in life. We may not always know what we’re up against and what our current experiences are preparing us for. Maybe we are forced to take a few steps back, sometimes, only so we can charge ahead in full force towards success.
Tough times and difficult experiences make us more resilient. We all, at some point or other, go through extreme struggle and stress (whether outward or within ourselves). This breaks down our inner equilibrium and makes us tired. But we have to get back up and continue fighting. People find their own ways of dealing with stress. Some of these are extremely helpful but some, in turn, cause more stress. Positive spiritual coping strategies do help in the process, making the individual feel better. The first step to dealing with struggle, though, is to understand that there is no way out and that one has to go through the struggles nature has decided put us through. Acceptance can be the very first step to healing.