There are a lot of stages to growth. It doesn’t happen easily or quickly. Sometimes it occurs in fits and starts. You make some progress, level off, and stay at that stage for a while until you feel the next wave of growth building to propel you forward again. Although, like most people, I have wanted growth to come more quickly, I now appreciate the process more. I used to be anxious or frustrated with the leveling off until I realized those periods of my life allowed me to recuperate and prepare for the next stretch. I think we’d all like to be like a super hero, maybe Superman. We just want to close ourselves off for a brief moment and then emerge fully transformed into our stronger, braver selves. It just doesn’t work that way. It takes 18 years for a child to physically mature into an adult. So why should we think our emotional growth should be an overnight transformation? Growth requires time, patience, and energy.
While thinking about this today, I was reminded of an episode from LOST. Charlie, a recovering drug addict, asks John Locke to hold his heroin stash. John agrees and tells him he will hold it until Charlie requests it three times. On the third time, Locke will relinquish the drugs. When Charlie asks Locke the second time, Locke points to a moth in a nearby cocoon. He shows Charlie a small hole at the top of the cocoon that the moth has worked to create. He could, Locke tells Charlie, make the hole bigger to help the moth out, but the struggle to escape is what strengthens the moth for its life journey. If Locke assists the moth, the moth might not be strong enough to survive on its own.
This is why the struggle is real and vitally important. Struggle increases our strength. It’s in the struggle that we gain the fortitude to grow on, to move to the next stage of development. The tears, the anxiety, the discomfort, the conflicts, the frustration are all part of process. I think about when my youngest was diagnosed with severe dyslexia. I would sit and listen to him as he worked with his tutor, and I would cringe. It was painful. It broke my heart to listen to him battle his way through readings. I wished I could snap my fingers and make it all go away for him. I couldn’t. In the end, the years Luke spent leaning into the discomfort led him to become the person he is now, ambitious, dedicated, and a diligent reader. If I had snapped my fingers and changed his situation for him, he would have only overcome the dyslexia, but perhaps not grown stronger and discovered how capable he truly is.
So, am I happy that my personal growth story is taking so damn long? No. No I am not. But am I grateful to still be plugging along? Absolutely. I can look back and see where I was. I know I’ve made progress. So, I will keep working at it, stopping to take a break as necessary, knowing that every bit of the process is important and will, in the end, lead me exactly where I am meant to be.