As a counselor, I’ve spent a lot of time discussing fear; helping clients accept it, “dance with it”, and come to a place of non-resistance. On countless occasions, I’ve witnessed the miracles that happen when any of us lays down the sword we’ve wielded against our fear. A vault of internal reserves opens when we no longer feel a need to overcome it. Instead, as Rumi states, we learn how to treat the fear that waits at the door as our guest.
What I’ve been thinking about lately, though, is the relationship we have with our courage. Courage has come to mean a great many things that do not necessarily line-up with everyday life for most people. For example, someone can be considered very brave when they decide to train for an iron man, or launch a polar expedition, or sail around the world, or back-pack alone through South America. In short, bravery often means making some very BIG things happen in life. Things most of us would never even consider doing, let alone have the time or resource to complete. What then, does that say about the everyday variety of bravery? Do we have to be stellarto be brave? Do we have to undertake something awesome and epic in order to have courage? Or can we claim bravery as something much more personal, something that for us, may be no less awesome, epic or stellar, however ‘commonplace’ it might appear to the world.
For example, a massive amount of courage is required for someone with social phobia to join a sorority, or someone with PTSD and a history of family neglect to enter an intimate relationship. Someone who’s been raising children and out of the workforce for years must be incredibly brave when they have to return to work and keep step with their colleagues. The bravery list goes on and on. Just fill in the blank of whatever internal or circumstantial obstacle may exist and instantly the commonplace is elevated to a status that is grand, ambitious, brave as an Everest expedition.
Everyday bravery gets overlooked for many reasons. Perhaps there’s just too much to do in a day to really think about what is being accomplished in the realm of courage. Perhaps it’s easier to focus on the captivating happenings of social media, youtube, or a Hollywood movie. Or perhaps it’s just too uncomfortable to think of oneself as brave. Like an oversized shirt that really should belong to someone else; bravery doesn’t always align with our self-concept. Especially when we stop to consider, as we do, the vulnerable spaces we each possess. Spaces that can feel so dominant, courage becomes like a five-year-old trying to play in the NBA. After all, vulnerability and fear are the all-star players who have been in the game a lot longer. Bravery hardly stands a chance, but this doesn’t mean it’s not there. And it doesn’t mean it can’t make a basket if given half a chance.
It’s downright astounding to think of the gains we might receive should we FULLY own our courage. How much confidence, determination and wherewithal we could bring to our endeavors if we recognize that we are indeed, brave beyond measure. However commonplace the form, however great the vulnerability, courage is what keeps us committed to the process, whether it’s parenthood or running a corporation, launching a creative idea or going out on a first date. Courage is there all the while, like that feisty 5-year-old on the basketball court, racing like hell to get those two points. Making a basket is its ultimate goal. And when you stop to think about it, courage is the only one who can.