The absence of fear is not courage, it’s insanity.
A soldier situated on the front lines who races into the fray of incoming enemy fire without a care in his heart is not courageous, he’s a lunatic. Now the soldier who looks at the situation, knows the danger, who’s heart races, who’s mind is screaming to stay put, who’s palms are sweating, who calculates the odds, who is enveloped by fear and steps out in spite of it … now that is courage.
Why does this matter for you?
Because people mistake courage for fearlessness all the time. People say, she’s fearless, that’s why she left her marketing job to work at a nursery school for war children in Uganda. He’s fearless, that’s why he put his last few dollars into that crazy idea he’s been ranting on about.
It matters because it becomes our first line of defense.
The reality is we can’t really control the feeling of fear. As long as the people who live remarkable lives, who do things we admire are the few chosen fearless ones, then we can comfortably sit back and say, “I wish I could be like that”, “I wish I could do that”, and settle on the fact that the universe bestowed them with nerves of titanium steel.
But the moment we recognize that those individuals are not bankrupt of fear, they simply press into the dark mist, no matter how scared they are … well, now that changes everything.
They aren’t super human … they feel what you feel.
The fear that everything will go wrong.
That they’ll be ridiculed. That they’ll end up weather-beaten, penniless hobos brown-bagging a half bottle of cheap Gin they found in a dumpster under the Brooklyn-side of the Williamsburg bridge.
It matters because everything in the universe is going to try to keep you from doing whatever plan you set for yourself. And because there will be quiet and deciduous moments littered throughout the next few weeks, where you will come face to face with the Fear that you know all too well. And that fear will want to suppress every dream in the quiet alcoves of your heart by gently whispering the dangers ahead and that you’re just not good enough.
So, in those moments, it’s nice to know that you don’t have to be fearless, you just have to muster the courage to do it anyways.
Originally published in September 2012.
Your Fellow Misfit,