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Courage vs. Fear: The Same Coin?

I’m a pretty motivated person who some might affectionately refer to as “Type A.” I’ve felt called to write a blog (and eventually a book for adult survivors of loss) for many years. Yet, here we are…years later and only three posts into the blog.

Why do we wait to pursue our dreams? Or, why did I wait on mine?

In a word..........FEAR.

I’m courageous in many ways. I grew up in the theatre, so I can speak to large groups of people with ease. I completed a doctoral degree (trust me.…that mess was scary!). I manage large projects at work and oversee faculty, staff, and students within my college at the university. I facilitate grief support groups and share sacred space with survivors who pour out their sorrow and pain. I do not shy away from tough conversations that most people prefer to avoid. All of these things require courage.

Yet, I am also fearful. Putting myself - my thoughts, beliefs, and ideas- “out there” risks exposure. It risks criticism. It risks failure. My blog might be a complete disaster that no one enjoys reading (let’s hope not...!). You see, it is MUCH safer to quietly dream about helping others through my writing, keeping my thoughts to myself, than sharing them on the internet where I risk complete rejection.

There is a lot to fear. Yet, there is so much more at stake if we fail to try.

Nelson Mandela once said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

It appears courage and fear might be two sides of the same coin. Perhaps we decide with each task and in each moment the side on which we will err. Sometimes, we oscillate between both.

A couple of years ago, after a long day of travel that included boarding and deplaning the same (tiny) aircraft in Denver four times, I experienced the dichotomy between courage and fear. After boarding for the final time, I needed to use the restroom just before our plane taxied the runway for Colorado Springs. I walked past my new travel friends (because you get to know people when you share a crowded space with them all day), and entered the bathroom at the back of the airbus. As I slid the lock on the door, the light (that is designed to switch on automatically) failed to illuminate. So, now, the door was locked. And, I couldn’t see ANYTHING- including the lock.

Yep, friends! I was trapped in an airplane bathroom, in complete and utter darkness!

At first, I chose courage. I gently knocked on the bathroom door and calmly called out to anyone who might (not) hear me over the plane engine. After all, I wasn't going to embarrass myself in front of all my new plane buddies! After a few moments (that felt like 8 hours!!!) of courage without any response from the passengers seated nearby, I realized...I WAS STUCK! I flipped that coin over faster than you can say tails, and I chose fear. I began banging on the door, frantically attempting to move the lock and door in every direction. I'm pretty sure I was shouting above the engine when the door finally burst open! Upon my release from confinement (and noticing an entire plane of passengers staring at me), I quickly flipped the coin back to courage. I gave an award-winning pageant wave to all my travel comrades who were cheering me on and gracefully strolled back to my seat! Let’s be real, everyone on our flight needed some humor at the end of that day! And, I've learned life is much too short to be taken seriously all the time.

My former hospice patients taught me this and many other beautiful lessons about the frailty and brevity of life. Their legacy inspires me to truly LIVE and appreciate each day I am gifted on this earth. During the COVID-19 pandemic, while so many among us are ill or dying, this reality is even more present. So, why are we still waiting to pursue our dreams?

I'm guessing most of you haven't found yourself trapped in an airplane bathroom (leave that awkward situation to me...!). But, I'm sure you've had to negotiate the tight space between courage and fear more than once in your life. You may even find yourself confined there today. My dear readers, I don't know the dreams God has placed upon your hearts or the ways your unique gifts might bring joy, hope, healing, and love to others. But, I am confident of this- if our aspirations are ever to become a reality, we will eventually have to choose the more difficult side of the coin.

So, today, I am choosing courage in honor of those who have gone before me. I see the fear on the coin, but I am flipping it over for courage’s sake. I choose to write another piece and put it “out there” in hopes of helping someone with my words. I pray you are inspired, in your own way, to do the same. The world needs your contributions of courage. Let us not waste another day living on the fear side of the coin!

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”- Eleanor Roosevelt

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