The other day as I talked with a friend I recalled a story that I heard this summer. “A compassionate person, seeing a butterfly struggling to free itself from its cocoon, and wanting to help, very gently loosened the filaments to form an opening. The butterfly was freed, emerged from the cocoon, and fluttered about but could not fly. What the compassionate person did not know was that only through the birth struggle can the wings grow strong enough for flight. Its shortened life was spent on the ground; it never knew freedom, never really lived.”
I call it learning to love with an open hand. It is a learning which has come slowly to me and has been wrought in the fires of pain and in the waters of patience. I am learning that I must free the one I love, for if I clutch or cling, try to control, I lose what I try to hold.
If I try to change someone I love because I feel I know how that person should be, I rob him or her of a precious right, the right to take responsibility for one’s own life and choices and way of being. Whenever I impose my wish or want or try to exert power over another, I rob him or her of the full realization of growth and maturation. I limit and prevent by my act of possession, no matter how kind my intention.
I can limit and injure by the kindest acts of protection or concern. Over extended it can say to the other person more eloquently than words, “You are unable to care for yourself; I must take care of you because you are mine. I am responsible for you.”
As I learn and practice more and more, I can say to the one I love: “I love you, I value you, I respect you and I trust that you have the strength to become all that it is possible for you to become ― if I don’t get in your way. I love you so much that I can set you free to walk beside me in joy and in sadness. I will share your tears but I will not ask you not to cry. I will respond to your needs. I will care and comfort you, but I will not hold you up when you can walk alone. I will stand ready to be with you in your grief and loneliness but I will not take it away from you. I will strive to listen to your meaning as well as your word, but I shall not always agree. Sometimes I will be angry and when I am, I will try to tell you openly so that I need not hate our differences or feel estranged. I can not always be with you or hear what you say for there are times when I must listen to myself and care for myself, and when that happens I will be as honest with you as I can be.”
I am learning to say this, whether it be in words or in my way of being with others and myself, to those I love and for whom I care. And this I call loving with an open hand.
I cannot always keep my hands off the cocoon, but I am getting better at it!