The Lesson of the Butterfly

By Paulo Coelho

A man spent hours watching a butterfly struggling to emerge from its cocoon. It managed to make a small hole, but its body was too large to get through it. After a long struggle, it appeared to be exhausted and remained absolutely still.
The man decided to help the butterfly and, with a pair of scissors, he cut open the cocoon, thus releasing the butterfly. However, the butterfly’s body was very small and wrinkled and its wings were all crumpled.
The man continued to watch, hoping that, at any moment, the butterfly would open its wings and fly away. Nothing happened; in fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its brief life dragging around its shrunken body and shrivelled wings, incapable of flight.
What the man – out of kindness and his eagerness to help – had failed to understand was that the tight cocoon and the efforts that the butterfly had to make in order to squeeze out of that tiny hole were Nature’s way of training the butterfly and of strengthening its wings.
Sometimes, a little extra effort is precisely what prepares us for the next obstacle to be faced. Anyone who refuses to make that effort, or gets the wrong sort of help, is left unprepared to fight the next battle and never manages to fly off to their destiny.
(Adapted from a story sent in by Sonaira D’Avila)

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  1. Mahesh says:

    Its very true that butterfly is helped with the toughness of the cocoon. I feel that struggle always makes person capable for handling a more tougher challanges.
    It also motivate us take more challanging and tough task which we normally tend to avoid or postpone although those will give us tremendous results.
    So inspite of waiting for trouble to take over us, take a risk and do the job which is tough which will result into increasing capacity.

  2. Haykanush says:

    What I understand from this story is: the cocoon is not an obstacle or difficulty, it is the life, the life which we must live. Sometimes we start to look for the ways to skip something in our life, we think we are just skipping the mistakes that the others did, and we are only trying not to have the same story. We make the emotions that should come step by step go fast and compressed and sometimes we just delete them from the list. We start to do everything more fast to win the time till our spirit dies. Physically we are still living but mentally we are dead already, the vacuum is taking us. We were looking for security and making it fast but in the same time we tried to go forward of the nature. No one can break this only us. So it is not sad for me, but it is the answer and punishment of trying to be too clever and forgetting that all the knowledge is in simplicity…

  3. no one says:

    Sometime you hurt the one you love the most. This is life…
    The beauty of the story is in its way of telling a story with so different meanings for different persons.

  4. I recently wrote a song about this very thing for the Dallas 24 Hour Music Race. 9 bands/artists were assigned one common line that had to be used in the lyric of their song, then each artist/band drew their 2nd mandatory lyric from a fortune cookie, after which we were given 24 hours to write our song and return to the studio where we were given 2 hours to record it.

    The common mandatory lyric was “But this one is mine”, taken from the following line in the movie, “Full-Metal Jacket”: “There are many weapons, but this one is mine.” The message from the fortune cookie that we drew was “You will make many changes before settling satisfactorily.” You can hear that song at Below are the lyrics that I wrote, containing both mandatory lyrics.

    Butterfly Effect

    Why in God’s world
    Must there be so much pain?
    Why must there be suffering?
    Well, pain brings struggle.
    Struggle brings change.
    It’s the natural evolution of things.

    The butterfly will die soon
    if it doesn’t have to struggle to leave the cocoon.
    If the ground were not hard we would never fly.
    We require struggle to reach the sky.

    You will make many changes
    before settling
    Sometimes you feel lost
    when you can’t see
    where all the changes will lead.

    But the butterfly will die soon
    if it doesn’t have to struggle to leave the cocoon.
    If the ground were not hard we would never fly.
    We require struggle to reach the sky.

    You can’t run.
    You can’t hide.
    Your problems will follow you.
    Open up.
    Spread your wings.
    Face your fears.
    Take a leap of faith.

    The butterfly will die soon
    if it doesn’t have to struggle to leave the cocoon.
    If the ground were not hard we would never fly.
    We require struggle to reach the sky.
    There are many paths but this one is mine.
    I will lay my heart and soul on the line.
    I will take my chances; it’ll turn out fine
    if I live in Love one moment at a time.

  5. JAVIER says:

    Hello everybody,
    I read your comments with interest and I agree with some interpretations, sometimes we think we do good and we’re wrong and the best is to overcome obstacles on our way by ourselves. The point of view of Jainism, told by Aditya, is very refreshing these days because that makes us wonder whether we’re not wrong when we help people and many exemples prove that we are: christianisation, colonisation, humanitary help, duty to interfere, charity business…
    But, an extreme application of this way of thinking can be very dangerous too.
    So well, as to overcome obstacles the answer is inside us and we must be ready to receive help when needed. Thus, the first step is a good knowledge of ourself and then of the one you wanna help.

    Besides, the other question that arise is, as said Usha Jesudasan, also very revelant nowdays: is there a real progress by rushing mother’s nature way?
    Are we destroying the planet exploiting faster and faster our natural ressources?
    And of course the action of man over nature: genetic, Ogm, pollution, deforestation…
    thanks for your time.
    Take care

  6. Mona-Liis says:

    I always got my answers to my questions i have in my life from your books.I got them all what are published in estonian lanq. And today when i thought i had no answerst why some problems are in my way now i got answer to that from this stoori.

    Thank you for all nice houres and days i spent with your books reading and undestanding how interesting and still simpel life really is….


  7. s4ints says:

    the butterfly and the cocoon.. god’s creation.. since its creation by the creator have never failed to succeed to come out by its own.. the man should have understood that.. with good intentions he hed but sometimes it is necessary for us to know that some things are best left alone.. growth sometimes requires the individual to learn on his own..

    how ever my question is.. when is the right time?

  8. Kiara Luna says:

    I’d like to know you well. Help me to became a writer like you! You’re my favourite and I think you are able to read inside me at all…

    Because.. Athena looks like me.. so much!!
    Kisses.. by K.

  9. usha jesudasan says:

    In the world of Nature, time is slow,there is a purpose for everything – even struggling to come out of the cocoon.
    In the human world, everything is a rush….we set an agenda for Time We meddle because we have little respect for time. We do not understand the lessons of Nature. We do not understand that there is a purpose to everything.
    This story teaches us that there are 2 levels on which we can live – the human level and the level of Nature.

  10. usha jesudasan says:

    In the world of Nature, time is slow,there is a purpose for everything – even struggling to come out of the cocoon.
    In the human world, everything is a rush….we set an agenda for Time We meddle because we have little respect for time. We do not understand the lessons of Nature. We do not understrand that there is a purpsoe to everyting.
    This story teaches us that there are 2 levels on which we can live – the human level and the level of Nature.

  11. Sideen says:

    hi paulo,

    just wanna know can i read “Daily Message” of past days?
    i read one yesterday but im unable to find it today.. plz help me out if there is any collection of your every message for every day. i would love reading that.


  12. aditya says:

    Help ! right & wrong kind of, who is to decide ! how.

    a similar story of a young brother & his sister who were trying to help the pigeon’s eggs be more comfortable in its nest. seeing that the eggs were lying on straw etc, they decided to put some soft cloth beneath, so that eggs are comfortable and the chicks too when they come out. unfortunately the birds don’t like it that way and once someone has touched the eggs they destroy it, that is what happend, the young boy and his younger sister could not hold their tears when they saw the eggs lying on ground, broken. Titls of the story was “raksha mein hatya” loose translation would be “murdere while trying to protect”.

    Jainism is a releigion in India, and one of the sects believes that even if someone is dying of humger, or bleeding to death, or has fallen into a well, one is not supposed to help. their logic – it is interfering with ‘karma’ of the sufferer, the chap is living out his ‘karma’ by delivering him / her they are merely postponing recurrance of the same thing again.

    conflicting views – my take would be to listen to one’s heart and forget all the intellectualism, in this regard !

    sometimes a greater effort is requeired to hold back ‘help’ then actaully help. let the moments when such situations arise decide, let’s not have any preconceived notion about help !

  13. Paloma says:

    Esta historia me la conto una tia hace mucho tiempo y fue xq en el apuro d ayudar a mi hermana menor en ciertos aspectos, en si, le estaba haciendo daño pues ella solo no estaria aprendiendo de sus errores pues yo no le estaba dando espacio para que los hiciera.

    Quiero q ella sea una mujer fuerte, pero como podria ella defenderse x si sola en este mundo cuando yo siempre estoy ahi haciendo las cosas x ella para q no se haga daño? Lo unico q yo puedo ser para mi hermanita, que es la luz d mis ojos, es una ayuda para cuando ella caiga y vea q su hermana mayor, esta ahi para cuando a ella se le dificulte mucho levantarse.

  14. Will Adames says:

    As things become clearer on my life i notice that the struggle was worth it. Reading your writings is a good

  15. agnieszka says:

    Dear Paulo,
    Life is fragile like the butterfly.
    We are fragile like these butterflies.
    Maybe because of it everything is so precious:
    life, people, every little moment, every smile and every tear.
    We should be greatfull for that –
    to the One, the Only!
    Merry Christmas everybody!!!

  16. Yajna says:

    Dearest Paulo and friends,

    Actually i believe Karen ahs a point here- what if that butterfly was destined to be the way it came out so that man to see that lesson in it and now millions of people around the world will read about it! If he didn’t, we’d have no story and the impact it had on all those people wouldn’t occur and so the entirse course of history would change!

    But back to the moral of the story- i pretty much agree with wendy, i see that when parents do not let their child ‘strengthen their wings’ and protect them from the world they do far more harm than good. I see that at times, although ones intentions are good it is not always good to intervene. We should try to see ther bigger picture at times and trust that mother nature knows what she is doing.
    I find that with every new obstacle, a person discovers more and more of this hidden strength within him or her. They learn more of who they are and just what they are capable of. Its a basic principle of life- kid falls down, kid gets up, suddenly the kid realises he can get up! He discovers his strength only because he tripped over a rock (obstacle).
    Everything happens for a reason, and we should not forget just perfect the universe is- even if it doesn’t seem so at times.

    Thank you for being
    Lots of love

  17. Ans says:

    I expressed the same idea and importance of patience in this blog:

    Thank you for sharing this story. Always nice to have life lessons expressed in different ways, so I can understand better.


  18. rainer says:

    Great story, thank you very much. I understand the lesson, not to meddle with things I don’t understand.

    By the way. The baby-butterflies use an enzyme to make a hole in the cocoon. Afterwards they hang out their wings and fill them with blood or chitin to harden them. This procedure takes hours. There are no movements required to strengthen the wings.

    In some areas of the earth, erucae are a delicacy. Bon appétit!

  19. Wendy Espinoza says:

    i see the story from two different perspectives.

    first of all the man didn’t mean to harm the butterfly by helping it get out of its cocoon, but still he harmed it. some times in life when parents for example love their children to the extremes they want to protect them from anything or anyone and thus depriving them to explore the world or to take risks. they provide them absolutely everything they need, they will sacrifice themselves to make it easier for their just like the men to the butterfly they’re cutting off their childrens wings even if it is out of love.

    this story also tells us that in life we are going to encouter with difficulties, but that doesn’t mean that we have to give up. it is just a phase that we must pass through in order to appreciate what we have or what we are. if we have positive minds, obstacles can makes us stronger.

  20. agnieszka says:

    Dear Paulo,
    Another coincidence! – My friend showed me this story a while ago – it’s beautiful and sad at the same time.
    But the most of all it’s about life.
    It shows that nothing can be achieved without an effort and that every little obstacle help us to be stronger, wiser, better.
    I am almost sure to say that we would never be capable of really living without our little or big miseries.
    Sorry to say that but I think that the more we’re slapped, kicked the better we get.
    Experience, experience, experience.
    Every little one teaches us how to live,
    how to love,
    how to go on with our lives.
    How to be a better person.

    Somebody said: Life was not supposed to be a struggle.
    It’s even more interesting like that! Isn’t it?

  21. Karen says:

    oh, but is it for the man to deside the butterflys destiny? Maybe the butterfly was there for the man. I would like to ask the man why the butterfly was any concern of his. Only God knows the butterflys true destiny.

  22. Thanks for that profound and concise message that has turned into a teaching to my life and spirit. I’ve just found out about your blog and my mind is blown away with it. I’m sure it’ll be a source of knowledge, wisdom and encouragement.

    Please, let me have the honor of you reading my writings over at my metroflog. I’m barely starting,but I put my effort on someday becoming a renowned writer who’s main purpose is to show a path of light and hope for those who have lost the faith.

    You’ll be in my prayers.