The emperor moth is one of the most beautiful species of all the moths. Wings that are wide flap slowly and majestically when it flies. A lot of growth and change is necessary before the emperor can take its first flight as a full-grown adult. Much time has to be spent in a cocoon growing and evolving. Then to emerge into the world the moth must pass through a very narrow opening in its protective covering. It does this by struggling and squeezing itself slowly through a small hole in the cocoon with a great deal of effort.
Once upon a time a young man came across the cocoon of a large beautiful emperor moth. He made the decision to take it home so the moth’s coming into the world could be witnessed. The man waited for a day or two and in his excitement to see the month a decision was made to help it emerge. He cut a small opening at the bottom of the cocoon and very slowly the moth struggled to force its body through the tiny hole.
It appeared to the young man when only part of the way out, the moth became stuck and stopped making progress. Although it was just resting, he thought it couldn’t get any further out. Thinking he was being kind and helpful, the man took scissors and snipped a much bigger hole in the cocoon. Then it was no problem for the emperor to easily emerge. It was then the young man noticed the moth’s swollen body with wrinkled and shriveled wings.
Continuing to watch the moth the man hoped that at any moment wings would enlarge and be spread, the body would shrink and a first flight would begin. Instead the emperor spent the rest of its short life crawling about with its swollen body and shriveled wings. It never flew.
In his desire to be helpful, the man did not grasp that the struggle for the moth to free itself through the original tiny hole in the cocoon was necessary. The difficult tussle through a tiny opening was required to force fluid from the moth’s body into its wings so it would be able to fly.
For the moth, flight was only possible after a great struggle. By depriving the moth of the skirmish with the cocoon, with the best of intentions, the man deprived it of a good and productive life. Similarly, people need struggle to grow. No one can do the work for us. If life is free of obstacles, a person literally ends up crippled.
Like most, initially I want to bury my hurt, grief, pain or fear deeply inside whenever challenge comes. My flight or fight reflex kicks in and my first reaction is to do anything but experience the painful emotions in front of me. However, life has taught that before pain will subside, I have to face and deal with the adversity. I have to struggle. It is by moving through the feelings of discouragement, grief or pain allow me the complete range of emotions necessary before the pain will let go.
This has not been an easy lesson to learn. When younger as struggle arrived the feeling was of something being “done to me”. I usually played the “why me” game. With trial and error a discovery was made: when allowed to feel my emotions fully and openly I learned valuable life lessons.
Through such experiences resilience, strength and wisdom was uncovered. As tough as life’s lessons have sometimes been, each difficulty struggled with has held the seed of an equal or greater benefit, a pathway to new growth as a human being. That does always mean I absorbed the teaching the first time or even the second. It took a while to come to know that what is not learned gets repeated. Not infrequently I have been handed an equal or more difficult scenario of the same lesson again… and again… until I learned what life is trying to show me.
It is also evident today that the more difficult the hardship, the more valuable the lesson being taught is. Without passing through the adversity of dysfunction, the adversity of heartbreak, the adversity of financial problems, the adversity of loneliness, of loss, of failure, of separation, of divorce… I would not be the man I am today.
To be proficient at most anything, a price must first be paid. Learning the hard way is the only way of paying. I am grateful to know that little piece of wisdom and for all the lessons life has taught me.
Times of great calamity and confusion have ever been productive of the greatest minds. The purest ore is produced from the hottest furnace, and the brightest thunderbolt is elicited from the darkest storm.
Charles Caleb Colton