The Ugly Duckling 

 

Many people commit suicide because they do not know who they truly are. They think they are worthless, without value, that they donít fit or belong anywhere, that no one will ever love them. Being on the outside, being the misfit or just the lonely and out-of-place one, the last one to be picked, the one who is forgotten and left behind, the one who is never listened to or understood, the one who never seems to matter, it just gets to be too much. Too painful. We are not meant to be so alone and so neglected. To be frozen in this solitude; or tormented and ridiculed and ganged up on because we are different, paid attention to only because we can be hurt.

There is a fairy tale which I am sure you know, The Ugly Duckling, by Hans Christian Andersen. But it is one thing to know it; another to relive it, and finally let its wise and healing message reach the center of our wound.

Donít you remember? How there was once a mother duck, who gave birth to a whole brood of young ducklings, all happy and playing together, except for one - a somehow strange and different-looking duckling, which all the other ducklings ridiculed and teased. Of course, their cruelty and rejection hurt. But worse yet, the contempt, the disdain, the mockery, was so terrible that it seeped inside, until the "ugly duckling" began to see himself with the eyes of his tormentors, to lose sight of the beauty that God had put inside him, and to see only the ugliness which his abusers, with their limited vision, were able to see in him. He let their warped perception of him seep deep inside him, until he ended up totally despising himself, thinking he was as worthless and contemptible as they all did.

But then, little by little, an amazing thing began to happen. The strange and "ugly" little duckling began to grow, to transform. He began to take a different shape. His neck grew longer, his feathers began to turn whiter, to lengthen, to acquire an unheard of magnificence; while the proud duckling brothers and sisters who had once laughed at him were left behind, smaller, more awkward, somehow seeming stunted and incomplete, until one day they were even ashamed to be seen beside him, and would hide in the rushes whenever he passed by, so as not to be blinded by his light.

And it is then that everyone finally realized what had happened. The "ugly duckling" was actually a swan, lost from his true home, and mistakenly raised by ducks. Judging him by their standards, not knowing what he was, who was really among them, they saw only a strange misfit, who they ridiculed and denied respect to. But all that time, there was a reason for his difference, a secret unknown to them, and unknown to him, until one day, he suddenly blossomed into a swan, graceful, beautiful, himself - no longer hidden, but discovered! And he went on to find his true swan family, and his true swan friends, and with them, glided away into the beautiful life that had once seemed so far away, just a distant dream, born out of pain, that could never possibly come true.

Well, of course, the story of "The Ugly Duckling" is more than just a "fairy tale." It is a story about life, itself. About pain and rejection, and rebirth. Its lesson to all of us is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder; that though others may not recognize our human beauty - ourselves included - we do have it, or its seed, inside of us, waiting to be born. And one day - if we will only give ourselves the chance - we will cease to see ourselves with the cruel and unseeing eyes of others, but finally awaken to the beauty that we always possessed, but never saw, because others did not see it; the beauty that was always there, growing every day inside us, even as we were tormented and alone and uncared for; the beauty that was slowly leading us back towards our real "family", our real "friends", our real life, transforming us into a swan.

For those of you who have ever seen real swans, they are magnificent creatures, gigantic, beautiful, graceful beyond words as they glide across the water, seeming to escape from time, to be a part of the soul of the world, returning to it. And when they fly, the strange, resonant vibration of their powerful wings seems something magical, almost otherworldly, as though they came directly from some legend, or were a species of angel. How can I describe their magnificence to you? To be a swan is a beautiful thing. And you already are, you just donít know it, havenít found out yet!

Friend, give the swan time to understand, and discover the beauty of his reflection in the lake! Give him time to develop the sight of his own eyes, which will see deeper than the eyes of those who do not know! Give him time to find his grace, time for his magnificent wings to unfold, time for his feathers to become like snowy, warm jewels lighting up the lake, and time for the friends of his own soulís kind to appear.

Friend, do not wither and perish in the duckís world, for there is a swanís world yet to blossom!

 

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