I was used to being on stage. I was used to being in front of people singing, dancing, acting, and teaching. But here I was, with my heart pounding so loud it could drown the noise of the traffic and all I had to do was talk to one person. It was my first day at work and this was my first sales call. I had to walk in and ask an employee if they needed a fax machine. Fear gripped me and rendered me motionless as I stood outside the office door for what seemed like eternity (oddly enough it was exactly three minutes).
The Oxford Dictionary defines courage as ‘the ability to do something dangerous, or to face pain or opposition, without showing fear.’ Let us look at the two distinct parts of the definition.
- The ability to do something dangerous, or to face pain or opposition: Courage is something that is needed when you face a challenge; when you are doing something new, difficult, or risky. If you are not facing any of these three, then it is probably safe to think you are well within your comfort zone, playing it safe and avoiding anything that might disturb you or demand more of you. If you want to grow, you need to build on what you already have or try and build something new. Staying in your comfort zone is no guarantee that life is going to be easy without challenges. Circumstances that are unforeseen, unavoidable, and outside your control will come knocking on your door with or without warning. Simply put, there is always going to be some danger, pain, or opposition, irrespective of whether you are doing wrong, right, or nothing.
Without showing fear: I would have rather defined it as ‘without fear’, since the phrase in its original form may imply that one is not showing fear while it may be present in his heart. We generally misunderstand and misrepresent our fear. To better understand and to be precise about our fears we have to consider the two distinct parts of fear: fear scenario and fear object. For example, someone may confess that s/he is afraid of flying in an aircraft. The fear scenario is flying in the aircraft or being at a great height from the ground, neither of which is something to be afraid of (unless you are claustrophobic). The aircraft itself is not a possible fear object. The fear object is death that may result should the aircraft crash. My fear during my first sales call was that of hearing the word ‘no’ (a big fear for many). Once you identify your actual fear, you will also need to evaluate if the fear is rational (fear of fire burning your hand), irrational fear (fear of a tiger on the TV screen), or exaggerated fear (any kind of a phobia). In any case, identifying and evaluating your fear will help you overcome your fears. Among the many verses on fear, Isaiah 41:10 pretty much sums it up – Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Being courageous is easier said than done for most of us. Knowing and accepting that difficulties, pain, and risks are an inevitable part of life, and it takes courage to overcome debilitating fears that hold you back from growth, achievement, and success. Before you bash on regardless, please remember there is a fine line between being courageous and being foolish. Most often, success makes us feel we were courageous, and failure makes us feel foolish. But, while everything is clearer in hindsight, it is too late. Human foresight, combined with the earnest seeking of God’s will and His wisdom, will help us differentiate between a courageous attempt and a foolish pipedream. We will explore seeking God’s will in a separate article shortly. For now – Examine your fears, evaluate them, question your motives, prepare yourself, and have courage and faith in God.
- Courage: This is for you to possess as an individual to have and demonstrate courage in everything you do. The Bible is replete with instances of God asking his people to be of good courage (Joshua 1:9 – Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go), and of people confessing that their courage is from God (Deuteronomy 31:6 – Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.)
- Encourage: You are called to encourage others just as the spirit of God encourages you in your walk of life. 1 Thessalonians 5:11: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
- Discourage: It is imperative that you discourage disarming and negative thoughts that make you vulnerable and bring your spirit and courage down. Especially if you see people around you giving up and fearing something. Isaiah 8:12b: do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it.