Begin Again In 10 – Week 7: Courage
Updated: Sep 13
Most of the acts of courage I have performed in my life I stumbled into. In the moment, I either did not fully realize what was going on, or there was so much emphasis on the fear of unknown and how it would all work out that the actual gesture itself went largely unnoticed. I don’t even think I have heard the word much, really. I can only guess that’s what people mean when they say “Man, you’re crazy”, or “What are you up to this time?”. I was not taught to recognize courage for what it is, and it has been an uphill battle to turn things around.
For someone who has very rarely been encouraged to feel courage, I say a lot of “I am happy for you”. I mean, I have to start somewhere, and this is my way of acknowledging people’s effort and letting them know I see it. You just moved to a foreign country and convinced your boss that you can be trusted with a permanent WFH set up? I am happy for you. Right on. Not “OMG, I’m so jealous!”. We are not talking about me here. Or looking for some hot gossip material. We are taking a moment to let your act of courage manifest. Because what happens when it doesn’t is so disempowering. Tacky, almost.
Take me. To this day, I have beginner’s skills when it comes to distinguishing courage from just being a d**k. Whatever unpopular decision there is to take, I will (not so) casually run it by you, so that the responsibility for when things go sideways can be at least a little dispersed. Similarly, I have an equally hard time acknowledging my accomplishments in factual and constructive ways. I would much rather you did that. Then I won’t come across as full of myself, and I may additionally score a few free compliments, while we’re at it. What better way is there to live?
Well, turns out there is. And it involves taking responsibility for your actions and being forthright about it. There will always be time to muddy the waters and dress your courage up as chance, luck or a happy coincidence. And as for not having the courage at all – I say to each their own. Me, I am not the type to chat someone up in a bar, I write instead. Do I sometimes wish I did? Sure. Am I satisfied with what I can do in lieu? You bet.
It almost feels like it takes courage to have courage. And if that’s the case, we already have everything we need. Dare I say it? Or does it sound too simplistic? I was not sure myself, but then I found this quote from Ruth Gordon. She said: “Courage is like a muscle, it is strengthened by use”. “Strengthened”, not “brought to life” or otherwise “resuscitated”. Also, “by use”, not “by denial of pain” or “by oblivion of reality”.