“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” –Mark Twain
We suffer no shortage of fear. Whether feeling anxious, worried, overly concerned, panicked, impatient, frustrated or angry, beneath every one of those emotions is a fear. When we do find peace from the fears, our external world is only to happy to remind us of all there is to be afraid of…media’s latest terrorist conspiracy to explain the missing plane, negative forecasts of economic experts, security reminders at airport terminals, and so on.
Relationships are no stranger to fear. It lurks inside each partner. Fear has many faces in relationship. Fear sounds like:
- Will she stay if I tell her…? I cannot tell the truth about … or he/she will fall out of love with me and end the relationship.
- If I speak up about his anger I will pay.
- Will my kids be okay? I don’t trust my parenting skills.
- This relationship isn’t meeting my needs but I am afraid to leave. What if I cannot make it on my own?
- I am afraid to be alone.
- I am afraid to trust again.
- I am afraid to date…to ask…to commit…
- I’m damaged goods.
- I’m not good with relationships.
- I am unworthy of you.
- What if I quit my job and go back to school?
- I cannot quit my job and be without insurance.
- What if I want to practice a different faith than my family?
- I’m successful, but if my co-workers only knew that I’m a fraud… What if he/she finds out that I am a fraud?
- I am afraid we are a broken couple.
- I know I make excuses for her/his behaviors, but…
Fear is so pervasive in our lives, that it would take a book, or two, to sort it all out. Suffice it to say that we all have fear. Those best armed to conquer personal fears are those willing to admit to having fear. The paradox is that many of us fear admitting to owning fear! Yet, this is a crucial first step in knocking fear down and moving ahead with living fully.
Inertia fuels the fear, so it makes sense that a natural antidote is action. It’s easy to say ‘take action’ and hard to put body and mind into actual action. Fears often overlay those actions. It's quite a roadblock.
Enter courage! It’s been said that courage does not come before action, it follows action. The first action is admitting to having fear.
Firefighters charging into a burning building suspend debilitating fears such that they can do their jobs. We call them courageous.
A quarreling lover softens and attempts a repair, unsure of the outcome. The attempt is courageous, regardless of outcome.
A couple brings home their first newborn. They realize the parenting books didn’t address the fear of being in charge of this tiny and fragile life, yet they launch into feeding, holding, bathing, tending and loving this precious life. Courageous!
A mother reads aloud to her children, much like every other night, from memory, only this night she stops the mental streaming of worry to look into her children’s eyes as the story is told. She finds the courage to connect in that gaze.
Courage comes from the smallest of actions. The worried mother reading to her children made a profound shift as she focused more on her children in that moment, and less on her worries. It was a small action to look into their eyes, with an enormous payoff.
The quarreling lover takes a risk by softening, and allowing a curiosity to hear the partner out. The partner senses the softening of the space and risks listening. Both overcome fears in that significant exchange.
It’s a courageous individual or couple who admit to a painful stuck spot they don’t know how to get out of, and ask a professional for guidance, Making the call and following through on the advice, is both action and signs of courage.
Time for action. Grab a tea and 5 silent moments and steal away to your own company. What are you afraid of? Be honest. Breathe. Own it. Breathe again. Notice that you’re still alive and the fear did not kill you. Breathe. Well done!
Courage brings possibilities to fill the lack created by fear. It's time to live.
©Maren Beckman Inc. 2014