“Spotting Butterflies” is how I describe living with an eternal desire for human life to be full of love, happiness, goodness, acceptance and kindness. This may seem like a simple-minded and often impossible expectation, but my foundation in religion that has developed into the spiritual life that I now practice gives me inner joy and peace that promotes kindness towards others. To me, “spotting butterflies” seems like a better choice than expecting the worst in life, living without integrity, or being selfish.
I have been fortunate to be around supportive people in my life who have shown me that seeing past the surface level and trying to see the good in others is well worth it. They have proven to me that goodness exists and that it can thrive and multiply when expressed. Trying to see the best in others requires living with an openness and willingness to get to know more about a person than what can be seen one dimensionally. A one-dimensional view doesn’t look below the surface of a person’s expression, appearance, car, job, etc. Getting to know a person means taking a closer look at him or her, not judging based on a first impression, and being patient to uncover what lies beneath the surface. Giving folks the benefit of the doubt can be a huge gift to both them and yourself. Upon first meeting someone, you never know if they are dealing with stress, heartache, sickness, loneliness, or something else. If you take steps to truly get to know someone then you might be able to open your heart to understanding the other person, which leads to a relationship that can be built upon common ground and understanding. We all have differences in life—we are human after all—but finding common ground with each other and living above the barriers such as social status, intelligence, race, or self-absorption that worldly views place in our life can give us individual actuation and promote decency among all people.
A friend that opposes my “Spotting Butterfly” philosophy lives with the belief that life is hard, disappointing, and unfair, and it isn’t all “butterflies.” I, too, believe that life is hard at times, can be devastating, and even seemingly unfair. However, I also believe that losing hope feeds a hopeless attitude, and after living many years without hope, I do not care to go back. You see, losing hope didn’t make spotting butterflies impossible for me, but it did make my life less fulfilling. I fully realize that disappointments will come in life, but living with a positive attitude and integrity during those difficulties will nurture the soul and eventually bring hope and dreams back into one’s life.
Oftentimes, acceptance of others and finding the good in people means listening to differing opinions or forgiving them for wrong done. Hearing out others and their desires does not mean that you have to agree with what they say. It simply means that we can acknowledge and respect their differing views. Think about it. Instantly being flippant or dismissive will not help you to build common ground with other people. It will only push people away because this type of attitude is often interpreted as making someone feel invisible, disrespected, disregarded or belittled. Why can’t one person’s opinion be just as valid as the next person’s opinion? Perhaps living out the Golden Rule, to do unto others as you would have them do unto you, could keep one safe from falling into the trap of becoming a dismissive bully. You may not always agree with what a person believes or has done, but the battles of good and evil that we all face provide opportunities for character growth and personal development, whether we are the one facing a moral dilemma or the one forgiving someone who failed in the struggle. Personal experiences, good and bad, open our eyes for greater compassion towards others. Striving to see the good in a person outside of the differing opinions or bad choices can seem impossible, especially if the actions negatively effect or hurt someone else. However, forgoing revenge and forgiving the wrongs done instead, helps a person gain control of life and turn away from victimization.
Last summer, while white-water rafting in Colorado, my family and I hit some very strong rapids. We all worked together, using our paddles with determined motion, to keep the raft afloat and to avoid hitting the fast approaching boulders. My family laughingly recalls that in the seriousness of the moment, I said, “Oh, a butterfly!” after spotting a monarch near our raft. Being able to spot a butterfly at that particularly alarming moment is similar to intentionally trying to understand and respect another human being even during the roughest waters or disagreements. For me, spotting a butterfly to remind me to be compassionate and kind can be as important as spotting the humanness in all of us and striving to recognize that we don’t always have to be right, or know everything, or be the first, or the best, or the most important. Treating others with respect and integrity leads to a fulfilling life that can promote kindness and equality in all humanity.