As parents and business managers, we’re called to lead our kids and co-workers through hardships. In the moment, the compassionate solution often seems to be to step in and carry the weight ourselves. We’re older and we’ve struggled through similar situations; we know just what to do.
But it’s precisely the struggle that builds character. Here’s a short story I heard Saturday night that illustrates the point.
On Saturday night, my wife and I were privileged to attend a 25th Anniversary celebration for St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Greenville. At one point in the evening, Bishop Robert Guglielmone addressed the huge crowd, not only to commemorate the accomplishments of the school, but to remember its humble beginnings.
Bishop Guglielmone told the story of a fisherman, who had his boat in a quiet cove, shaded from the sun. In the stillness, a cocoon fell from a tree and the fisherman noticed movement as a butterfly struggled to emerge from within. Although the butterfly had managed to make a small hole in the cocoon, minutes passed with no activity. The hole wasn’t big enough for the butterfly to escape and the exhausted creature appeared completely spent.
With no fish biting, the man stared at the cocoon and decided he would help. He pulled a pair of delicate scissors from his small tackle box, carefully enlarged the hole and waited to see the what would happen. Sure enough, the butterfly emerged, with crumpled wings and a bloated body. He watched, expecting to see the butterfly’s wings dry out, enlarge and expand. But it never happened. The butterfly was only able to crawl; its wings never grew.
What the fisherman came to understand is that the butterfly’s intense struggle was nature’s way of training it for what was to come. The effort to push its way through the tiny opening pushes fluid out of its body and into its wings.
Having the faith and courage to build a school when others said it couldn’t be done strengthened the resolve of those families 25 years ago. The struggle made St. Joe’s mission that much more compelling.
Whether its our child getting knocked down in a game or an employee working through a difficult project, our job isn’t always to step in and “make it all better.” By embracing the struggle, we build the self-confidence that whatever life throws our way, we’ll eventually find a way to succeed.