Smalley compares buffaloes to butterflies to demonstrate the differences between men and women. He argues that our innate dispositions are different, with strengths and weaknesses. I loved the comparison, but actually think it is more than just a male/female difference. I think that some people are women are buffaloes and some men are butterflies.
Smalley's description of butterflies:
"The butterfly has keen sensitivity. It is sensitive even to the slightest breeze. It flutters above the ground where it can get a panoramic awareness of its surroundings. It notices the beauty of even the tiniest of flowers. Because of its sensitivity, it is constantly aware of all the changes going on around it and is able to react to the slightest change in its environment. Thus, the butterfly reacts with swiftness to anything that might hurt it. If a tiny pebble were taped to a butterfly's wing, it would be severely injured and eventually die."
Smalley's description of buffaloes:
"The buffalo ... is rough and calloused. It doesn't react to a breeze. It's not even affected by a thirty mile an hour wind. It just goes right on doing whatever it was doing. It's not aware of the smallest flowers, nor does it appear to be sensitive to slight changes in its environment. Tape a pebble to the buffalo's back and it probably won't even notice it."
The most poignant difference between the animals is the reaction to the pebble. The same "assault" on both animals can kill one and be unnoticed by another. It is the same with people. I know people who fall apart and cannot function as a result of circumstances which do not register on other people's radars.
Dealing with Catherine's medical issues has hardened me into a buffalo. Small issues are like pebbles. Some mothers may panic over things I give almost no thought to. Yet, I want to notice the precious trivia of my daughters' daily lives - the tiny flowers which the butterflies see. I need to appreciate both the buffalo and the butterfly and cultivate both aspects of my personality.
This post was inspired by the book "For Better or For Best" by Gary Smalley.