Can You Fake Courage?

GROWTH

An easy way to develop yourself is to read how other people develop themselves.  My friend over at the blog Neeserisms, always has thoughtful insights about her life’s journey.  A current entry is all about how to Encourage Yourself.  Click on the link to enjoy her wisdom.

EXCELLENCE

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”
Anais Nin

A client (let’s call him Sam*) and I had a really good discussion about courage.  If there is one thing I could bestow upon people who are pursuing their purpose, it would be COURAGE.  Merriam Webster defines it as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”   It goes beyond faith, it goes beyond belief, it goes beyond hope.  I completely agree with C.S. Lewis’ assessment:

 “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”

There have been times when I have met the meaning of the word full on, refusing to back down and advancing forward in glory.  Other times I do not.  Other times I isolate myself or run away.  Sam felt the same way.  We agreed that we could both probably withstand most of the onslaughts if we gave it half a shot.  But we don’t.  Sometimes we feel too weary, but mostly we just become fearful.

Then Sam brought up something very interesting – those times when it looks like we are being courageous, when we convince ourselves and others we are being courageous – but it’s absolutely not true.   Sometimes what appears to be moving out into something new and adventurous, is really just a way of avoiding something we need to deal with.

I thought I knew a little bit about this.  A couple of years ago, people told me I was courageous when I left my job.  I wasn’t.  It was just the last of the options available. I have absolutely no regrets about leaving – it was necessary for my mental and physical health – but it wasn’t courage.

But Sam had a different twist to it.  Sam gave up on his business after years of hard work. It was a big dream for him – something he’d been building towards for years.  Things were going really well and they were about to expand to the next level, but within just days of making their planned expansion, one of his partners dropped out.  Sam was devastated.  He had other partners who still wanted to go forward, but Sam’s pride and ego were demolished.  He could shake neither the humiliation nor the fear of losing control again.  When he made a comeback, everybody thought it was so brave of him to start again, so courageous to try it a different way.   But he says now that wasn’t true.  He was actually running from that humiliation and fear – trying to distance himself from it, protecting himself from being hurt again and trying to prove to others he could do it without help.  He told me now he wishes he had had true courage – the resourcefulness to have picked up the broken pieces and forged ahead through the pride and ego, to blaze through the humiliation and fear.  He wishes he would have stayed the course and taken his business to where he really thought it could go.  But he had given up and used doing something different and easier as an excuse.  The result was that he lost a sense of himself along the way, forgotten what his passion was, lost a sense of his purpose, lost a big chunk of his dream.

Sam’s story challenged me.  I wonder how many people have convinced themselves they are being courageous by doing something different but it’s really just an excuse to give up.  I think it can be a super fine line that moves around with the circumstances.

I’d like to hear from you about what you think (or what you’ve experienced).  How do you make the hard call?  When can you tell that you’ve crossed it?

*Story used with permission.  Name has been changed.

PURPOSE

A Change in Perspective or What I Learned from The Evil Baroness and Shirley Valentine

GROWTH

The happiest life is that which constantly exercises and educates what is best in us.
(Philip Gilbert Hamerton)

EXCELLENCE

PURPOSE

When I was seven years old and watching The Sound of Music I thought the Baroness was akin to the Wicked Witch of the West, attempting to destroy my beloved Maria.  In my twenties I felt sorry for the deluded (albeit much better dressed) gold digger.  But somewhere in my forties I noticed my eyes filled with tears, just as hers did as she said good-bye to the Captain. I felt bad when I realized her hopes and dreams (and hard work) for security had been dashed by a beautiful, younger woman – and I noticed the dignity with which the Baroness gave up that hope.

I started watching the movie Shirley Valentine when I was in my late twenties.  There is a scene where she has an “aha” moment and looks in the mirror and says, “I’m not going to look at myself and say, ‘Geez, you’re 41, Shirley.’  I’m going to say, ‘Shirley, you’re only 41!’”  The sense of that played out differently in my head when I watched it at 29 (oh, poor woman) than it did when I was 41 (preach it, sister), and, again, at 50 (self-acknowledging chuckle).

As you go through your life, your perspective of your purpose will change as well.  That’s a good thing.  As I’ve said before, I don’t think that we see our purpose perfect and whole in the first place.  I believe that God gives us a taste of it to stir our passions up and to get us going.  Sometime the twists and turn come from challenges and circumstances.  But sometimes they come from simply having a different perspective, an “aha” moment that puts a different spin on things.  Don’t let it scare you or stop you.  It doesn’t mean anything is wrong, things are just playing out differently in a different time of life.  When this happens, it’s important to  slow things down a little and allow yourself to take advantage of this gift of a fresher take on things, of being able to keep what you’re focusing on relevant.  Don’t think what you’ve known and learned up to this point should be tossed out – carry it with you, but don’t let it alone define you.

Getting to your purpose is not about racing to the finish, it’s finishing the race well.

A Little Help from Jane Austen

GROWTH 

A few years ago I read a magazine article where a woman wrote about the realization that she was making some of her life decisions based on whether her childhood authority figures would approve or not.  She said she had probably passed over some excellent opportunities due to her concern about what her father, her childhood pastor, and her favorite teacher might have thought about it.   I’ve heard others admit  they also think of those people, but purposely do things that would shock them – an “I’ll show them” attitude.  

All of us can fall into childish behavior now and then, but we need to be particularly cautious of this as we pursue God’s purpose for our life.  We need to be conscious about who we allow to influence us. 

There are plenty of people who have strong opinions about the what/where/how of my pursuit.  But I am the one who chooses whose views hold weight with me.   There are those who I admire, those who are subject matter experts in what I pursue, those I ask questions of and seek advice from.  But I choose who will actually influence my course.   It’s hard not to be swayed by the thought that someone you admire might disagree with you and you risk losing support or respect.  It’s also hard when someone you don’t even know well (or at all) belittles you and your choices. 

In the past I have had painful experiences of allowing people to emotionally control me, whether they were figures from my past that I allowed in my brain, or people who I gave too much weight to (they may or may not have been aware) or, sadly, those who stepped clearly into  manipulation.  I have been awake in the wee small hours of the morning, questioning my abilities because I’ve replayed their  words and opinions in my head. 

Oddly, what helped me is a discourse held in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, where the character Elizabeth Bennett wearies of the  interference of other people outside her appropriate sphere of influence.  She finally states:

 “I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to YOU, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me.”

This statement helped me construct a filter that I use when I feel overwhelmed and begin to question my calling.
  • What “constitutes my happiness”?  My answer is always:  Following God
  • Who am I “referencing” in my current thoughts?  Whose opinion/attitude has brought these thoughts about?
  • Is that person “wholly unconnected with me”?  Should this person have any influence at all in the pursuit of God’s purpose in my life?
  • In what manner should I be “resolved to act”?  If I am resolved to act to follow God and, if they should have no influence in this part of my life, I leave it behind.
How do you handle or recover from unwelcome influences in your path?  Let me know in the comments section.
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EXCELLENCE

“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters.  Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.”
(Colin Powell)

PURPOSE

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