Adversity liberates true self

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, June 30, 2022

Painted Lady butterfly blesses our garden with adversity-liberated beauty. Photo by Warren Harbeck.

A recent webinar by Cochrane-based authenticity guru David Irvine inspired me to revisit a photo of a visitor to our garden I’d taken three years ago. It was of a stunningly eye-catching Painted Lady butterfly, and did this visitor ever put an exclamation point on David’s webinar theme, Authenticity and Adversity.

“There is something both horrible and potentially liberating about hard times,” David said. “Adversity … strips you down, cracks you open, takes you apart, and sets you free.”

In David’s leadership programs, participants often point to coming to grips with adversity as a life-defining experience for them. “The adversity journey, the journey to your authentic self, describes the process of surrendering to a time of great difficulty, allowing the pain to crack us open, so that a stronger, wiser, kinder person will emerge.”

And in the case of our Painted Lady butterfly guest, a more beautiful contribution to life. But more about that in a moment.

Drawing from experiences with adversity in his own life, David shared three lessons he’s learned from facing adversity in his journey toward engaging his authentic self:

Strip away the non-essentials: “Our old identity, our expectations of life, our attachments, everything we thought we had control over – all begin to disappear in the dawning of the light of our true self…. We can see what others and the world truly needs, and our unapologetic authentic self gets to work.”

Embrace the hard stuff: “It hurts to come to grips with loss … or give up hopes and dreams we had for our lives,” he said. “Embracing the hard stuff … means reaching inside and finding a strength and a faith to help get us through and emerge stronger and brighter.”

Ring the bells that still can ring: “Ringing the bells that ‘still can ring,’ means bringing your whole imperfect self to whatever adversity you’re experiencing…. Know that the sound of your bell is needed today. And within our brokenness and imperfect efforts we find that the light of our gifts is our greatest contribution to the world…. Disruptive times create an opportunity to get us in touch with ourselves and our world differently. They crack open the old to see a fresh view of living and working and leading.”

To illustrate his point, David cited the example of Canada’s cancer research advocate, Terry Fox. At the age of 18, he lost his leg to cancer, but instead of giving up, found his true, new self as Marathon of Hope champion who set out to run across Canada and left a worldwide legacy of hope for other cancer victims.

Well, this is where our Painted Lady butterfly re-enters the picture. It started out as a creepy little caterpillar whose dreams were to journey to the next leaf. Then it found itself as a pupa inside a cocoon, not going anywhere for a couple of weeks. And then in its final glorious act of metamorphosis, in David’s words, “it cracks open the old to see a fresh view of living,” thus blessing the world with its winged beauty – and being an example to us for our own encounters with adversity as we morph into our authentic selves.

Thank you, Painted Lady, and thank you, David.


© 2022 Warren Harbeck

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