A man found a cocoon of a butterfly.

One day a small opening appeared.  He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to squeeze its body through the tiny hole.  Then it stopped, as if it couldn’t go further.

So the man decided to help the butterfly.  He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bits of cocoon.  The butterfly emerged easily but it had a swollen body and shriveled wings.

The man continued to watch it, expecting that any minute the wings would enlarge and expand enough to support the body.

That didn’t happen…  In fact the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around.  It was never able to fly.

What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand:  the restricting cocoon, and the struggle required by the butterfly to get through the opening, was a way of forcing the fluid from the body into the wings so that it would be ready for flight once that was achieved …

[Author unknown, but greatly appreciated!  If you or anyone you know has a proprietary interest in this story please authenticate and I will be happy to credit, or remove, as appropriate.]

Although we rarely understand it “real time,” are our struggles exactly what we need to develop and grow?

Admittedly, this is not an earth-shattering insight…

But we now seem to have a dilemma: Do we help, like with the starfish?  Or do we not help, given that we now recognize we might be preempting a process of learning and growth that we are not aware of or understand?  Helping the butterfly clearly had an unfortunate unintended consequence… How do we know that our help isn’t premature or preempting?

In fact, how do we know that our help is wanted?  The man in the story was exhibiting an impressive empathy for the plight of the butterfly.  Unfortunately, asking the butterfly if she wanted help was not an option.  But we can ask when helping our coworkers, family, and friends…

So a take away to this story might be that even our empathy might at times require our governance; even though we really want to help, we shouldn’t.  If you are a parent, you likely get this totally!

The best of intentions do not always translate into the best of results. Intention, apparently, isn’t enough.

Knowledge, awareness, understanding, and good intent — that’ll fly!