Courage Is ... Taking A Deep Breath To Take That First Step
I’m so grateful for one of my clients for this beautiful and moving definition.
When I asked him about what he meant by courage – he was talking about working up the courage to break up with someone – he went away thoughtful. When he came into the next session, I could tell he wanted badly to tell me something.
That was when he shared this definition.
I love it so much because it’s not just a definition. It’s also a meaningful description that conveys the depth of how he experiences courage within him.
It’s almost like he had to fill himself up with energy to take action. Or he had to take in a deep breath to exert himself, working up the force to complete a difficult action. Like doing that last leg-press.
He needed to gather all of himself, marshal all of his resources into that one point. So he could take that first step. From there, everything will gather momentum, fanning the flames of his courage to propel him further.
It got me thinking – for me, what is courage? Was it the same?
For me, it felt more like holding my breath, perhaps. Or like having to take a deep breath so I can release it and let go of or break through all that is holding me back. Pull all the stops.
Yes, as I’m writing this, it feels right in a physical way.
Also, I do know that my lack of courage, when it had failed – where I’d taken that breath but only held onto it without pulling the stops, had resulted in me living in a kind of unfulfilled, tentative existence.
Maybe that is why sometimes I have experiences where people don’t take me seriously. Because without that fully released courageous energy, I come across as unconvincing, hesitant, unsure of myself and even “weak”.
So my courage is stoppered by the Stops. On the other side of the Stops is risk, and also tremendous potential to become more fully alive. And yet I’m also familiar with my Stops – the fearful, not-quite-just-fearful feeling that steps into the way of my courage.
It’s like this sensation of “what-if?” What if I did pull all the Stops and let courage guide my actions. Will I become a runaway train leading to a dramatic crash? Will I end up doing something that I would end up regretting or feeling responsible for – such as hurting someone? What if I can’t reverse the consequences of my actions? What if things run out of my grasp and control? What if they went in a direction I didn’t wish for?
That’s the fear – of the unknown. The worry. The trepidation. The Stops. It’s as if the Stops were cautioning me not to be impulsive whilst my courage is tempting me to be so, just a little bit. What a tension between the two.
And yet both Courage and the Stops ultimately want the same thing for me (being both part of me). They want me to live well, albeit from different angles.
What will it take for me to marshal my courageous energies in such a way as to work with the Stops? I thought to those times when I did break through a little bit.
How had I done it? What allowed the Stops to step aside for moment? I cast my mind to precise moments and times.
Slowly, a pattern of sorts emerged. It wasn’t that Courage overpowered the Stops. No, it wasn’t like that.
It came to me that courage and the Stops were each leading me in a unique direction. Courage wanted me to move towards living fully and openly. The Stops wanted me to move towards preserving important relationships so that I could have the chance to deepen connections within them.
These two separate lines seemed to move away in opposite directions, and at their furthest points, curved towards each other!
They met at the point where I realized that both were talking about the same thing. Without deep connections, I would not be living fully because deep connections are one of the key ingredients to a fulfilling life.
And yet, without the Courage to take risks like having difficult conversations and speaking the truth, I can never move towards deep connections. All I could hope for was to hover near deep connections.
As I hit this point of convergence, I experienced a deep relief and a quickening in my chest.
I will have to take as many plunges as possible and to trust that things will generally right themselves.
What does courage look like for you? What Stops you from taking the plunge? When have you managed to align both Courage and Stops?