About 13 years ago our family was vacationing in New England, attending a family reunion on Rhode Island at an old historic Inn. My daughter was about five at the time. We went out for a walk one afternoon and found ourselves down by the tennis courts observing hundreds of caterpillars. My daughter was always fascinated with bugs. She watched gleefully as they inched across the warm ground, toward the trees that lined the courts to begin working on their cocoons. There was a sense of urgency and determination as they slowly made their way across the courts. About twenty feet, a long arduous journey to them. Suddenly two young boys appeared with their mom. More than likely our squeals of delight piqued their curiousity. Then, we watched in horror as the the boys began stomping on the helpless caterpillars one by one.
My daughter began crying uncontrollably as her new friends were being killed one by one. She looked at me confused, unable to wrap her mind around what she was witnessing. She yelled out to them to stop, ignoring her cries they continued on, laughing.
Finally I asked the boys why they were killing these helpless caterpillars “because it’s fun” one boy yelled back, “yeah” the other one chimed in. The mother replied “boys will be boys”or something along those lines. Mother of then three boys myself her reply saddened me.
For some reason, this scene came to mind first thing upon waking this morning. I thought about those of us who have found ourselves in vulnerable positions over the course of our lives. Vulnerability either by trying circumstances or simply by choice. Putting ourselves out there along our life journey. Sharing our vulnerabilities with others realizing that somehow in doing so, though risky, it was part of a larger process. We intuitively knew on the other side of vulnerability was transformation. Vulnerability such a scary act full of risk, yet no longer able to live a safe life hidden away in our own suffering.
These caterpillars encountered those along the way who helped them on the arduous journey; those who nurtured, encouraged, and cheered them on recognizing that which they were not yet aware of, the end result, the hidden knowledge that at this journey’s end they would be transformed into beautiful butterflies, wild and free.
So it is in our own lives. We begin our lives, facing many obstacles to reach some unknown destination. Me meet others along the way who recognize our vulnerabilities and struggle, yet they see our determination and strength, cheering us on and nurturing us in our vulnerable state along the way. They recognize our weariness and walk along side of us briefly toward our destination when exhaustion and discouragement hits, sharing in our suffering offering love and compassion.
Sadly, there are also those who become fascinated by us initially, intrigued by our vulnerability. Intrigued by our apparent smallness, our perceived weakness. Fascination turns to hunger, now offering them a sense of superiority, power and control.
These helpless little caterpillars sitting targets. After stomping on that very first caterpillar these two boys received a small taste of the power and control they had over these fragile little creatures and their curiousity quickly turned to pleasure and excitement as they attempted to kill each one, their mother and teacher choosing apathy, blind to the valuable moment in front of her of installing a sense of empathy and compassion into the lives of her children. She missed out, they missed out.
When we choose to live a life of vulnerability and authenticity, we open ourselves up to both the most compassionate, loving, kind people, as well as the most cold hearted abusers who due to their own insecurities and inediquacies actually take pleasure in causing harm to those they perceive as weak. They become addicted to the sense of power they receive in squashing those of us who actually have the determination, guts and strength to walk the path of transformation. This, sadly is a harsh reality. Our struggle, our perceived weakness an opportunity for them to gain a sense of power within, to fill the void.
This has been one of my greatest lessons.
Those who have wounded and broken others will often blame the victim. They project their own fear and disappointment on those who actually have the tenacity to take the risk, yet they themselves live in misery an emptiness that become constant companions, a void that must be filled at the expense of others. This gives them a sense of power and control over their own lives. Yet like a dark void it must be constantly fed and maintained.
Those of us who set out on this journey toward transformation must be so careful not to take on a victim mentality, which is merely a projection that others try to put on us. Our battles, our losses and our encounters with heartache and betrayal become catalysts that propel us closer to that place of inner transformation and freedom. Yet the process is painful. We reach our place of rest along the way, deep inside the crysillis and find safety, secure within. And eventually as we emerge, we find ourselves unfurling our crinkled wings under the warmth of the sun, transformed into a beautiful butterfly, we take flight off into the rich blue sky, weightless and free. Looking down we gain a new perspective. Those seemingly large obstacles we met with along the road toward transformation are now nothing more than small specks beneath us, and as we fly wild and free we choose to open our hearts once again, to love, to trust, for a butterfly once transformed can never shrink back into the safety of the cocoon, but must continue on in this new state of being, embracing wildly this new found freedom.
“If you make yourself vulnerable to the other party, then that is very good evidence that you are trustworthy”