Monday, 14 March 2016

Butterfly lessons by Sue Irving 14th March 2016

When I celebrated my birthday a few days ago, I got many cards and gifts that depicted butterflies. Even people who don’t know me very well, seem to have noticed that I like these insects. Butterflies put a smile on my face because they remind me that there is always hope, even when transformation and resurrection seem impossible.

Here are some other lessons I have learned from butterflies:

Don’t judge potential by unpromising beginnings. Someone who did not know about metamorphosis and was shown a caterpillar and a butterfly would probably laugh at us if we told them that the six-legged, wormlike and often unsightly creature that seems to do nothing more than gobble up its host plant and leave a trail of destruction is going to turn into an elegant, graceful winged creature that is not only a joy to look at, but also pollinates plants and so adds to life on planet earth. We too can be transformed from selfish takers into joyful givers.

Embrace the messy middle. In the chrysalis, the caterpillar’s body breaks down and is deconstructed. Her future looks hopeless, yet all the building blocks are there for her resurrection into new life.  Without the messy middle, you don’t get a butterfly. The process needs to be allowed to run its full course and the breakdown and rebuilding allowed for a healthy butterfly to emerge.

People have sometimes tried to speed up the transformation by cutting open the chrysalis so that the butterfly can emerge more quickly, only to discover that what they thought was kindness ultimately kills the insect. It is the struggle and effort that allows the butterfly’s wings to be strengthened and to prepare the insect for its first flight.

I try to remember this lesson when I am in rescuer mode. I find it hard to watch someone struggle  with something that comes easily to me. However, if I always do it for them, they may never grow healthy wings.  

When "nothing" is happening, keep persevering. When things are messy and chaotic in my own life, and I seem to be stuck in one place forever, I remember that transformation is a process. Just like the growing butterfly hangs upside down in its chrysalis until its transformation is complete, I need to learn to "hang in there" and trust that my chrysalis will split open when the timing is right. 

About the author:
Sue Irving is the co-ordinator for the Creative Communicators in Petersfield. She has co-written a book with her husband John about their experiences when climbing Kilimanjaro. How to conquer a mountain: Kilimanjaro lessons is available as a paperback and an e-book on Amazon, with all proceeds going to charity.


  1. Never thought of butterflies in this way before, Sue. Great stuff. I must however mention a cartoon I saw a few weeks ago, of a butterfly showing its passport at passport control and saying, "It's an old photo."

  2. Thanks, Sue - I like your advice to "embrace the messy middle". I like my transitions to be neat and well-defined, but I guess I need to learn to wait for God's timing.