Posts Tagged ‘courage’

The Parable of the Minefield – Part 2

February 10, 2017

When I wrote the Parable of the Minefield, I was thinking that I was defying the definition of courage, when I thought that the prevailing definition was a lack of fear. But when I looked it up in the dictionary afterward, I saw that the definition actually does match my understanding of it. It defines courage as “the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous” (Merriam-Webster). I would change one word of that. I would change “know” to “feel or believe”. Life is all about perception, especially emotions. For instance, if you have a phobia, you may know intellectually that your fear is not reasonable. Your mind may tell you that something is not dangerous, even though in your heart you believe it is. No matter how much logic you try to apply, you may not be able to summon the courage to do the thing you’re afraid of.

In my story of the minefield, what if there were no mines, but rather, people just thought that it was a minefield? Would it have changed the 5 examples? No! The first person, who didn’t know that it was believed to be a minefield, would have been vindicated to find out later that there really never were any mines. However, he still may have initially had a panic attack when he was led to believe that he had just crossed a minefield. He was still ignorant of the common belief, even if it was incorrect to begin with.

The second man, who didn’t care because he had given up, would not have changed his attitude if he found out later that it was not really a minefield.

The third man, who wouldn’t go because he was overcome with fear, was unable to cross the field because he believed that it did contain mines. Even though the mines were not real, his fear was very real because it was based on the belief that he would likely be killed or maimed by what he thought were mines in the field. Even if someone came along and told him that there no mines in the field, if he continued to believe deep down that there were mines in the field, he still may not have been able to summon the courage to cross it. Many of us have unreasonable fears that may have no basis in fact, but their effect on us can be just as real as if it were a dangerous situation.

Did the fourth man, who was trembling with fear as he crossed the field, exhibit true courage even though there weren’t really any mines? Absolutely! Courage is doing the thing that you’re afraid to do, regardless of whether or not the fear is justified.

What about the fifth man, who was inspired to exercise faith and put his trust in God as he confidently crossed the field? Did he exercise real faith even though the danger wasn’t real after all? Of course! What about when he prayed about it? Shouldn’t God have simply told him not to worry about it since there weren’t any mines in the field? Even if he were so spiritually in tune that he could have gotten such a detailed answer to his prayer, it may not have been in the man’s best interest for God to share that tidbit of information. One of our purposes here on earth is to learn to exercise faith. Remember, faith is the opposite of fear. The more that we can use faith, the less fear will control our life. Did the Spirit lie to the man? No. God simply gave him an assurance that, one way or another, everything would be alright… and it was. Of course God knew that there no mines in that field. But all the man needed to know was that things would be okay. Through that experience, the man was able to build his faith.

There have been many times in my life that I’ve lacked courage; times that fear has held me back. When I have exercised courage by going forward in spite of fear, I have not only accomplished more than I would have otherwise, I have grown personally and built my character. Exercising courage does not mean doing stupid dangerous things. But when your heart, mind and spirit tell you to do something or take your life in a particular direction, move forward in faith, in spite of fears that may be getting in the way.

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The Parable of the Minefield

February 9, 2017

There were 5 people who needed to get from point A to point B. It was important for them to do this. Their families were depending on them. The problem was that there was an active minefield between the two points. They could not go around it. In order to get to point B, they had to cross the minefield.

The first person walked casually across it without a care in the world. When he got to the other side, the people who were there excitedly asked him how he could have done this so casually and bravely. “What are you talking about?” the man asked. “Didn’t you know? You just walked across a minefield!” the people exclaimed. He immediately had a panic attack and almost fainted. “I had no idea!” (This was not courage. It was ignorance.)

The second person also walked boldly across. When he got to the other side, the people asked him if he knew it was a minefield. “Yes, I know” he replied. “I just don’t care.” This person had given up. He no longer cared if he lived or died. He did not exhibit courage, but just apathy and self-destructive tendencies.

The third person simply refused to go. His fear of the minefield was paralyzing. He knew he needed to get to point B. He tried to figure out how to get there without crossing the minefield, but could not come up with anything. So he simply did not go. His family was very disappointed, but he felt powerless to get to the necessary destination.

The fourth person was also very afraid, but he went anyway. Every step was a huge effort. Getting across the minefield was a horrible, harrowing experience. When he finally got to the other side, he collapsed with emotional exhaustion. It caused him to need years of counseling and it was a terrible experience, but he had made it! This man exhibited true courage. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is moving forward in spite of your fear. Where there is no fear, there can be no courage.

The fifth person strolled across the field whistling a happy tune. When he got to his destination, everyone was astonished. They asked if he knew that it was a minefield and that he could have easily been killed. He responded that he knew that. They asked him if he had a death wish or didn’t care about being blown to bits. He said that he did not have a death wish and that he in no way wanted to be killed or maimed. So how could he cross the minefield so casually?

He explained that prior to starting across the minefield, he had prayed fervently to Heavenly Father about whether he should cross the field and implored that he be protected in his efforts. A sweet, calm assurance had come over him that it would be alright. He would most likely be kept safe, but even if he wasn’t, he was in God’s hands and it would turn out for the best in the end. Based on that, he decided that he would exercise faith as he crossed the field. He would replace fear with faith. He wasn’t able to do it entirely. So he did have to exercise some courage as well. But with that, he was able to cross the field with a song in his heart and a smile on his face.

The opposite of fear is not courage. The opposite of fear is faith – faith in God, faith in your own abilities, faith in those around you, etc. Going through life can be like crossing a minefield at times. At certain times and in certain situations, we can find ourselves being like any one of the people in this story. Sometimes there is danger and risk that we’re naively unaware of. Sometimes we can be so distressed and fed up that we feel like we just don’t care anymore. There are times when our fears stop us from doing things that we know we ought to do, or even need to do. Other times, we’re able to summon our courage and push through the fear, in spite of the difficulty and even getting a few bruises and scars along the way, both physical and emotional. But of course the best way to live life is with faith. When we’re able to have faith and confidence (deep down, not just superficial), we can face our trials with quiet assurance that everything will work out, even when the trials become difficult and damaging.

 

(The foregoing is an expansion of an idea published in my blog 9/11/15. It can be found at https://drdonwhittaker.com/2015/09/11/courage-and-fear/.)

Courage and Fear

September 11, 2015

CourageFearWe are told to not be afraid and to have faith –“doubt not, fear not”. Indeed, doubt and fear are the two most powerful forces that hold us back in life. For some, they can be completely crippling. For others, they simply hold us back from achieving our full potential in life.

I’ve often wondered about these admonishments. How can you tell someone to not have fear or doubt? How can you respond? “Okay, I won’t have any more fear and I’ll have complete faith.” Wouldn’t it be nice if it were that easy? It’s not though, is it? I believe that what these are really saying though is that we should not allow these to get in our way. We can start to eliminate doubt and fear by exercising faith and courage.

Herein lays the crux of the matter. I believe that many of us don’t have a true understanding of what faith and courage really mean. When we feel fear, we wish we had more courage so that we would not be afraid. We then allow that to stop us from doing what should or needs to be done. We know that we could accomplish great things if only we had more faith, but we allow our doubts to hold us back. However, that demonstrates somewhat of a misunderstanding of what faith and courage are. These are action words, not simply a state of mind. Let me explain.

We often think that if we have fear, it means that we lack courage. That lack of courage then becomes a stumbling block. “I can’t do that because I’m afraid.” I maintain that where there is no fear, there can be no courage. Here is an example. Suppose you had to walk across a mine field (active explosives hidden in the ground). If you didn’t know it was a mine field, would it take courage to traverse it? Of course not. Suppose you had a death wish or you were so confident that you could avoid the mines that you didn’t feel any fear. A death wish or overconfidence certainly shouldn’t be confused with courage. The only time that it would require courage to walk across that mine field is if you knew that it was a mine field and you feared death and dismemberment. Courage is not the lack of fear. Courage is acting in spite of your fear. Courage is to be afraid of doing something but doing it anyway.

Does it take courage to drive a car? For most of us, it is not a great act of courage to get in our car and drive somewhere. When you first started to learning to drive, it did take courage, because it was a scary thing to do. If you’ve been in a serious accident or had a loved one killed in a car accident, it can take great courage to drive a car, because now there is fear. Does it take courage to mow your lawn? For most people, it’s no big deal. For me, it was never a fearful thing. But a number of years ago, I had a serious accident mowing the lawn. For a while after that, I had to hire others to mow my lawn. I remember the first time I mowed the lawn after my accident. I was practically trembling. But I pushed through the fear. I exercised courage by mowing it anyway. Each time thereafter, it got easier. Now it doesn’t bother me a great deal, although a small amount of fear remains.

What about faith? Is it the absence of doubt? If you know something for certain, there is no need for faith. Faith is the action of moving forward with something in spite of not knowing for sure what will happen.

So if you feel fear or doubt, don’t think that you lack courage or faith. Act on what you know. Do what you can do. Courage and faith are action words. Practice doing them. Start small if you must. Do what you’re afraid to do and you will be building and exercising courage. This will bring you strength of character and help you to achieve a great deal more in life.

Another thing you can do is to remove some of the emotional baggage that is getting in your way. An effective means to accomplish this is with The Emotion Code.