RESILIENCE IN THE STORM
"The man who never had to toil
To gain and farm his patch of soil,
Who never had to win his share
Of sun and sky and light and air,
Never became a manly man
But lived and died as he began."
To become a strong and healthy adult, a butterfly must force its way out of its cocoon. The exertion required to free itself gives it the strength to spread its wings and fly. If a well-meaning observer decides to intervene and "help" the butterfly break free of the cocoon, this will unwittingly cripple it and destroy its ability to survive.
Similar principles apply to young humans.
The late Leo Buscaglia, internationally acclaimed author and lecturer, used to tell the story of how, when he came of age, he went to study philosophy at a Paris university.
His mother gave him his entire stipend for the year in one lump sum. When he arrived in Paris with a rather large chunk of money, he used it to party and buy wine for many newfound "friends" who had shown up quickly. In short order, however, his money - and his friends - were all gone.
When Buscaglia finally "came to himself," he had just enough funds to send an urgent three-word telegram to his mother back in the United States:
"Mama: Starving! Leo."
The next day he received her three-word reply:
"Leo: Starve! Mama."
Leo later said it was the most important lesson of his life. He learned that actions have consequences. He learned that even in a mess of his own making, he could discover within himself resolve and resilience and resourcefulness he didn't know he had. He learned that he could do hard things.
His mother later said it was the most difficult lesson she ever taught, but she knew if she didn't, her son might never grow up.
Wise parents and grandparents, like Leo's mother, understand that growth comes from facing and fighting through adversity. Helen Keller said it this way: "Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through the experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved."
Sometimes we see our young butterfly of a teenager or young adult child or grandchild struggling to break out of their cocoon, and we think it would be kind for us to "just give them some help." Sadly, too much "help" and too much "kindness" may cripple them for life.
Sometimes, as hard as it may be, we simply must take a deep breath, step back, and let them work out things for themselves.
And guess what? They usually do.