17160 Stephen Kalyta: The Butterfly Effect

“The weight of unkind words today can become a crushing burden to carry in the future for the victim and the transgressor”

Article by 17160 Stephen Kalyta

For those of you who are not familiar with the concept of the butterfly effect, I will offer here a general definition. The butterfly effect is similar to dropping a stone in still waters, the waves reverberate well beyond the initial point of contact between the butterfly’s wings and the air surrounding it. This image is relevant in the context of my recent happy reunion with an old classmate and an opportunity for current College Cadets to consider carefully how they interact with one another for it may have future consequences.

I just reconnected tonight with a classmate from CMR after 28 years. The power of social media can bridge time and space and rekindle old friendships. Life has an interesting way of driving us down a long precarious path that upon reflection, time and a bird’s eye view, actually ends up being a complete circle. When we reconnected, I remembered that my friend was often mistreated by fellow Cadets because of misplaced narcissistic tendencies that too often were thrust upon him. I felt bad for him and admitted as much. He reminded me that I was not one of his adversaries and treated him with dignity and respect. He told me this mattered all these years later.

As a skinny, odd looking prepubescent kid that did not quite fit into his body or overly large head, I became an early advocate for the oppressed. I could not have guessed though how simple dignity would matter three decades later, but it did, an to him, and that is the butterfly effect.

There is a simple lesson here. MilCol is a microcosm, like the edge of a butterfly wing that propels action, word and sometimes misdeeds well into the future. Consider for a moment how the weight of unkind words today can become a crushing burden to carry in the future for the victim and the transgressor. Instead, take a moment to reflect on how you can lighten the burden of another by simply being respectful toward those who may see the world differently. “A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.”


  • 7368 Reg Hanbury

    January 28, 2019 at 2:20 pm

    Very true – but life is what you make of those experiences. For the target the result can be good or bad. In my own case I was a “goat” deemed by the seniors of the day to be unsuitable and thus driven out. Is this a perceptual problem on my part? Don’t think so because I did not realize the scope of the problem at the time and it was only some years on that someone of that year ahead filled me in and congratulated me on my survival. They did not succeed although it played hobb with my grades. It took me some years to rectify that but I was propelled into Law and I spent some 25 years being the biggest thorn in the side that I could to employers who would bully (particularly the Police variants). Was the bullying a detriment in the grand scheme? Depends on who you ask – management or the goat. I made my peace one person, one case at a time. I did not solve the worlds problems but I sleep well. I do know some individual bureaucrats who still seem to hate me. Personally, hatred takes too much energy. It does not give comfort or relief. Anger is caustic to the soul. Is this a way of saying don’t get mad get even? Don’t know.

  • Mitchell MacLeod 13139

    January 28, 2019 at 3:47 pm

    I always have maintained what does not kill you makes you stronger. I as a result, developed a very thick skin while at RMC, some class mates and seniors, and some Sqn Comd’s having swung hard and missed the target, though they probably got some joy out of the abuse at the time. There were others who were treated worse. Ditto for the subsequent 20 year military experience; one barb in particular made by an UPTO member of the Class of 1980 with whom I had attended classes, who ended up being my career Manager, resonates 27 years later. The day he stated “We own you Captain” was the day I made plans to get out of the military by the time I turned 40, which I did at 37. You are right, most were insecure narcissists (and in a few instances, sociopaths, and in one memorable case a pervert). As I approach 60, I do wish in my early years I had followed more often the revelation of Dame Helen Mirren, who in her 70s stated she wishes she had not been so “bloody polite” and said F*** Off more frequently. I have said it plenty since.