A man once tried to help a struggling butterfly out of its chrysalis by slitting it open. The butterfly that emerged had small, unformed wings, and was never able to fly. By trying to shortcut the process, the man had instead doomed the creature. The struggle is necessary for the butterfly, and for us.
Accept that the struggle is necessary
It is hard watching someone you care about struggle. You could have a spouse trying to succeed in the workplace, or a child grappling with school. Perhaps it’s a relative trying to get a business going, or a friend dazed by a painful divorce.
Of course we want to help. But we must make sure our help does not make things worse. Refrain from giving unsolicited advice. Also, do not attempt to take over the problem and solve it yourself.
Sometimes we need to sit back and let the process unfold. We can watch and be there should any help be required, yet not intervene when there is no real need.
The wisest people I know practise this. When I’m going through a personal challenge, they make it clear that they are there but that I need to deal with it myself. In my younger years this response would drive me up the wall. All I wanted was for someone else to step in and make everything alright. Now I understand that they were allowing me to grow my own wings.
Stay in the background of someone else’s struggle
Are you like the man in the story, getting too involved in someone else’s problems? Perhaps you need to step back. A good question to ask would be: are you trying so hard to make yourself feel better, or because it will truly help the other person grow?
A good rule of thumb is to help only when asked. If your spouse, child or friend want the space to figure it out themselves, give them the gift of struggle. They know the struggle is necessary, and probably wish you did too.