The Gift in the Struggle

Tadao Ogura, M.D.

One day a man saw a butterfly, shuddering on the sidewalk, locked in a seemingly hopeless struggle to free itself from its now useless cocoon.


Feeling pity, he took a pocket knife, carefully cut away the cocoon, and set the butterfly free. To his dismay, it lay on the sidewalk, convulsed weakly for awhile, and died.


A biologist later told him, "That was the worst thing you could have done! A butterfly needs that struggle to develop the muscles to fly. By robbing him of the struggle, you made him too weak to live."

Author Unknown



Dr. Ogura’s Comment

This story is dealing with “Enabling” vs. “Tough Love.” As you can see in this story, too many people would react to a “poor butterfly” with cheap sympathy. When this man cut away the cocoon to “help” the butterfly, he meant well but was actually reacting to his pain in his heart about the butterfly and "helped" the butterfly to make himself feel good.


As you can see now, ”enabling” is always self-centered and self-serving. If this man was able to watch the butterfly struggle, he had to endure his pain in the heart and resisted not to react to it. In practicing “Tough Love,” we would feel much more pain and suffering within ourselves than the pain and the suffering of a person whom we try not to help. Therefore, “Tough Love is tougher on yourself” as stated in one of The Basic Principles on this website.

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