COMMENTARY: Let the Butterfly Struggle 746.1

There’s a parable about a new mother who discovered a butterfly struggling mightily to escape its cocoon through a tiny opening at the top. She became concerned when the creature seemed to give up after making no progress. Certain that the butterfly just wouldn’t make it out without help, she enlarged the hole slightly.

On its next try, the butterfly wriggled out easily.  But the young women’s joy turned to horror as she saw its wings were shriveled and useless. Her well-intentioned intervention turned out badly because it interrupted a natural process. You see, forcing the butterfly to squeeze though a small opening is nature’s way of assuring that blood from the creature’s body is pushed into the wings. By making it easier, she deprived the butterfly of strong wings.

Childhood, too, is a sort of cocoon. If a healthy adult is to emerge, parents must allow, even encourage, their children to struggle, to make mistakes and learn from them, and to pay a price for their own bad judgments and conduct.

Of course, good parents should be ready to protect their children from serious harm.  But being overprotective can itself cause serious harm. Adversity is not always an enemy.  It’s often a teacher that helps young people develop wings strengthened by self-confidence and self-reliance.

Helen Keller once said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts!

Comments 18

    1. Post
  1. I’m so happy I found your site. This parable illustrates something I tell my children often. Hardship builds character, and accomplishment is needed for true self esteem and respect. Thank you.

    1. Post
  2. Mr. Josephson, Congratulations on your new launch. You have reach many people through the radio and now that you are on the internet you will reach many more. Character Counts was in a pond for many years and is now in the ocean where it will grow around the world. Thank you Sir!

  3. You have warmed my heart. I am one of those “glass is half full” people who believe that growth is possible no matter what the situation. Your insight into character education is captivating and has the potential to transform the lives of your youth. Your inspiration has given me hope for our society. Many thanks and keep it coming!

  4. Michael – Thank you for the inspiration that you provide thru the Josephson Institute and the outstanding books that you have authored.

    You now bless the world with your amazing gift and ability to share your knowledge, insights and examples into the critically important subject of ethics.

    It is especially exciting that you are now able to communicate beyond the reach of Los Angeles (AM Radio 1070) and share your important insight and lessons worldwide with persons in countries where people are oppressed and cannot speak their voice. Since your important message is now communicated worldwide you will be touching more people, providing them to insights into ethics … and challenging them to change themselves which will lead to change in the world. Congratulations on your next location!

    Blessings to you!

    1. Post

      Scott, Thank you for the kindness. I just arrived in Lagos, Nigeria a few hours ago and I’m looking forward to learning more about the country and its people. Please tell your friends about our new blog..

  5. I think that some mistakes should be allowed to be made by children, but their parents should always be there to guide them should they stray too far from a good path. There should always be good guides around, not only for children, but even for adults.

  6. Thoughts from the cocoon:


    This is a great message, but your delivery is too rapid. Your speech seems pressured, and while it carries with it a sense of urgency, it also seems to get in the way of your underlying message that growth takes time. Thus, there is a not-so-subtle incongruity between what you are saying and how you are saying it.

    Clearly, you have a lot to say, and a short time to say it. However, your words of wisdom – this one in particular – are dependent on timing. Thus, you seem to have inadvertently nicked the message cocoon.

    I love what you are saying, but the rapid-fire talk is getting in the way with what you are trying to get across.

  7. Thank You for sharing this beutiful story. I’ll be using it as a parable when I talk to parents at my school. We as parents need to understand that overprotecting our children doesn’t make any good. 🙂

  8. Thanks. This meant a lot for me in terms of the current battles I’m facing professionally. Best Wishes on your new platform/launch – and sorry you’re no longer on KNX. It was one of the highlights of my drive home from work. Cheers.

  9. I often share your commentaries with friends and coworkers as inspiration, motivation, and bonding. I find an emotional peace after listening to or reading your commentaries.

    Thank you for sharing so eloquently!

    1. Post

      Thank you Aster, I was a broadening experience in Nigeria proving the common need for and receptivity to the core messages about the importance of good character. Please send you friends to this blog and our Facebook pages.

  10. Post

    Joe, Thanks for your suggestions. It is the first time I’ve heard this though I don’t doubt in my need to fit the entire message in 90 seconds – the requirement of my radio stations I may speak too quickly. I will try to be more considerate of this concern in the future.

  11. I really like your analogy. It can also be used to illustrate the need for boundries. I think too often parents feel they do not want to “confine” their children in rules (lets admit it, it require a lot more work on the parents’ part to set and implement structure/guidelines/expectations) This of course has a similar outcome in that it is they are then setting their young ones free without their wings having been properly developed.

  12. I’m 29 and I love my parents. However they always bailed me out of my financial responsibilities. Every time i would charge up to much money on a credit card they were their to tell me “never do that again! Here’s the money now pay them off”. Well now I’m 29 married and in the same trouble I’ve Been in over and over again. This time Im married and my husband says I need to finally get myself out of debt on my own. Reading this was exactly what I needed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *