Self-Love, The Butterfly Effect, and Death

How good deeds can cause bad outcomes

Self-love is a hot topic in the spiritual community. People are constantly searching for the newest trend or product to promote and encourage self-love. When we don’t love ourselves, every action we take can be excruciatingly painful as we sift through the self-doubt. 

If we don’t trust ourselves, our actions have the potential to cause us to doubt whether or not we are a good person. When we try to do something good, it can have a negative ripple effect that we didn’t anticipate. For instance, lending money to a friend can be seen as a good deed. However, by doing so, one could unknowingly be enabling a response that would prevent that friend from truly freeing him or herself from poverty in the long run.

It’s impossible and overwhelming to manage every outcome. There are infinite possibilities with impacts we never saw coming. The ripples of our actions are infinite.

Chaos Theory

The Butterfly Effect, with its roots in Chaos Theory, describes the impact of small changes and actions we make. The analogy that when a butterfly flaps its wings the far-reaching effect could be a tornado in a country across the world illustrates the significance of our daily choices.

While this is important to note, over the years I’ve found that too much attention focused on the ripples of my actions caused me to micromanage my relationships. When I was worried about making other people happy or controlling a situation I would doubt my choices. 

I grew up thinking I was a bad person. Concerned that I was making gratuitous and egocentric choices, I found difficulty fully owning my actions. I was unable to inherently gauge if my actions were good or bad and would rely on feedback. If someone didn’t like me, then that confirmed my fear of being a bad person. If I hurt someone’s feelings, it was more evidence that I couldn’t trust myself.

The Dragonfly Effect

A recent experience of mine caused me to reflect on the results of our actions. As I was sitting at a desk I heard this buzzing sound beneath me. When I looked under the desk, I saw that a dragonfly was stuck there with no apparent idea how to escape. I decided to free the dragonfly because I thought it would die underneath the desk if I didn’t. 

The repercussion of my seemingly good Samaritan action was quickly revealed to me. Only a minute after it discovered freedom again, the dragonfly was captured by a lizard and slowly held captive in his mouth as he waited for death. Troubled, I watched the dragonfly’s fate as it incited an existential pondering within me.

Death of a Friend

I am not inherently fond of insects. I feel no personal connection or impetus to hold a dragonfly in my hand. However, because of my choice to free the dragonfly from under the desk, I created a bond and an attachment.

Watching the helpless dragonfly try to wiggle out of the lizard’s mouth, I thought about how quickly bonds can formulate. Because the dragonfly and I shared an experience together, we had formed some kind of relationship, which caused the dragonfly’s death to have meaning in my own life. I was affected not only because we had a connection, but also because it was as a result of my action that caused it to be eaten by a lizard.

At the same time, I am unable to foresee all the possible timelines. Maybe the dragonfly would have found its way out of the desk on its own and still gotten eaten by the lizard. Or perhaps the lizard would have found the dragonfly under the desk. There are too many variables to consider when predicting every outcome. 

If I live my life trying to anticipate potential outcomes, not only is it impossible, it is exhausting. There are too many nuances and the ripples of actions are far too intricate to imagine. However, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t still be attentive to how my actions can impact others.

The Ripples of Self-Love

In the past, when I tried to manage the results of my actions I would find myself overwhelmed. It was stressful and painful to feel like I was doing everything I could but I still wasn’t making everyone around me happy. This Sisyphean Task caused me to realize that I was only capable of managing my own actions. 

In the moments of my life when I didn’t love myself, I wouldn’t trust the choices I made. I doubted my ability to judge my character and whether or not I was showing up in life with love. 

Today, I can confidently say that I trust myself. I’ve done enough work to move through the shadow, which, ultimately, is just part of ourselves wanting to be integrated. 

When someone is offended by my actions, rather than attributing it to mean that I’m a bad person, I am able to reflect on my actions and assess if my choices were in alignment with how I want to live my life. Other people’s reactions no longer dictate how I feel about myself. I stand behind my actions and words and no matter what result occurs, I am able to stay in love with myself.