Years ago, Lana told me that fools rush in because they're idiots. They are void of the concepts of courage, elegance, grace. We were discussing an adult bully, a seemingly fearless being. The bully was in overdrive all the time: demanding, ugly, and vile. What Lana and I could see was the shallow character, the lack of depth and intelligence; and the bully's eventual demise.
Our predictions came to life before our eyes. The idiot bully fell to ruin and disgrace. For all the lack of fear, he should have been fearful for his own fall to the bottom. The demise was rather spectacular. It was a very large audience that gave it a standing ovation.
A healthy dose of fear is nothing more than thoughtful consideration and intelligent reasoning beyond the immediate. Idiots, as Lana pointed out, aren't capable of that. By having reverence for what we cannot see and do not know, we step cautiously, carefully, and with understanding that we cannot assume what we do not know.
When stepping into the dark of the unknown, lots of people apply their own reference points, point of view, and understanding of what they do know. That's a mistake. Our orientation is limited, and often useless when applied to new landscapes.We have to be far more open and capable of imagining beyond our own realm of awareness. To be successful, we tread lightly into the unknown, with our own constructs, but still flexible enough to make adaptations; understanding that we are not the center of the universe, and certainly we alone do not have all the answers.
With courage, we learn to be flexible; that we don't have to break under our own rigid expectations of others, or our own rigid definitions of life. We aren't broken by the rigidity of others because we have the freedom to dismiss and walk away from those who'd like to define us by their standards. It takes practice, and a little courage to remember that the unbound mind is free. We needn't be bound by fear, just informed by that which we do not know.
Courage comes in different forms and degrees. It takes courage to admit you're wrong, to turn the other cheek, to walk away. It also takes courage to declare you are right, to stand firm, and to stay the course. Usually, true courage takes some of both. It's the ability to walk and live in the grey areas, with flexibility and grace. Our integrity is sometimes made on the issues that require courageous action.
From small decisions to life-changing ones, every consciously made decision requires a certain amount of courage. We're lucky when the choice is clear-cut and obvious. But life is amazingly rich and messy, so choices are rarely so easy.
Research on courage shows us that courage has a lot in common with muscles. Just as using a muscle develops strength, using courage deepens and strengthens our ability to be courageous. We can spend our lives anguishing, or we can step over or around the obstacles, hurdles, and hindrances in life. It may take patience to wait out the result or solution, but that's a courageous act.
We all know those folks who are manipulation experts. They play helpless. They have a thousand excuses and reasons to avoid accountability. These are cowards, and they are wasting their lives and the time of people around them. On the other extreme, we all know folks who are so limited in their intelligence, reasoning, and rationale that they only see black and white. They must control everything. They are bound tightly to their own rigid world. But somewhere in between these ridiculously cartoonish personalities lies grace - and courage.
Chantelle told me that she was once disabled by her own personality. Fearful of being mugged, robbed, raped, or murdered, she found her fears owning her. She didn't step out at night. Her home was a fortress of locks and bolts, with an intensive security system - and she still didn't sleep well. Gradually her fear overtook her, and she couldn't perform simple tasks, like grocery shopping, driving on the freeway, attending public events. It took Chantelle about five years of seriously devoted effort to undo the three years of sinking into disabling fear. But she told me that the most courageous thing she ever did for herself was to seek therapy to overcome the issues that incapacitated her. Today her life is filled with abundance, and her career is successful. She is a master of courage.
Sally told me about her many adventures after college when she traveled to exotic destinations alone. She bicycled through Indonesia; she learned to surf and ski in remote locations. As her year of wild experiences came to a close, her last stop was in Mexico. There she was kidnapped, raped and tortured. She was sitting in a small restaurant eating a small plate of food and thinking about her return to Texas when all hell broke loose. She was taken hostage by a group of men, and her ordeal lasted for days. All the courage she'd had during her travels was nearly undone by this blindsiding event. It's taken her years to build back the courage she once knew so well.
Courage was one of the keywords you chose, many of you, for this coming year. You can cultivate and develop your courage muscles, and you can do it simultaneously with a healthy respect for fear. It's a balance of flexibility, open acceptance of what you do not know, and facing your fears - along with the confidence and self-assurance that comes from thoughtful understanding of yourself, your goals, and being reasonable.
May your courage soar!