How the Butterfly Effect Affects You

Have you ever heard the theory of the butterfly effect? The theory holds that one flap of a butterfly’s wing can be one link in a chain of events that results in a hurricane a year later. Of course, there is no way to prove this takes place, but we do know that events are linked to events that happen beforehand. After much debate, this theory was, as Andy Andrews notes, “accorded the status of “‘law.'” It is known as The Law of Sensitive Dependence Upon Initial Conditions.

Andrews, in his book, The Butterfly Effect: How Your Life Matters, tells the story of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. A former professor, Chamberlain became a Colonel in the Union Army. He had to make some tough, seemingly detrimental decisions. But he knew what he must do. Against all odds of winning, he thought, “We can’t retreat. We can’t stay here. When I am faced with the choice of doing nothing or doing something, I will always choose to act.”

According to Andrews, historians can now say with certainty that if he had not led the Union Army to victory at Gettysburg, the South would have won the war. We would have been a divided nation of two countries. We would have been divided into between nine and thirteen states. There would have been no United States of America to “stand in the breach” against Hitler! Andrews writes, “The United States of America exists as it does today because of a single man’s decision: One thirty-four year old schoolteacher and a move he made more than a century ago.”

Have you ever thought about how decisions you make now can affect the future generations of your family? For good as well as ill? I have lived long enough to see it in my life and the lives of my children and grandchildren…even great-grandchildren!

I come from a family rife with suicides. My mother’s brother, my own brother, my father, and two uncles, all committed suicide. Major depression is definitely afoot in my family line. I suffered from it myself. Alcoholism has been a factor. I decided to put a stop to it. I decided to stand in the gap.

I have seen the fruit of my decision. I was able to talk to my mom about God when she was dying of cancer. She believed and reached out to Him. I took my children to church each Sunday. They are now all adults and they all have a depth of spirituality and faith that has taken them through hard times as well as good. Their children are happy and emotionally healthy. Our family line changed, not because of me, but because of small changes I made in my life. I have seen the butterfly effect at work.

Ever since I saw a scene in the movie, Antwone Fisher, I have thought much more about the generations of my family I have not met, whether it be future or past generations. There is a scene where Antwone, as a little boy, runs through a field towards a barn. He was being raised in an abusive foster home. He didn’t think he had any family. As the barn doors open, he sees generations past all sitting down to a wonderful feast. They smile at him, welcoming him. They were his family members who lived on this earth before he was born.

We cannot do anything to change our history, but we can do a lot to change the trajectory of future generations of our family, those who are living and those who are yet to live. I challenge you…just one decision…one flap of a wing…can make all the difference in countless lives of your family.



2 comments on “How the Butterfly Effect Affects You

  1. Thank you. This is beautiful, Linda. This is the first blog of yours I’ve read. I’m looking forward to reading more. Cheer!

  2. Thanks so much Robin. Nice to “meet” you!

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