Courage in its simplest form means full-hearted participation. It says, “I’m all in.” When it comes to full-hearted participation, children seem to do it best. They don’t know all about the foibles and terrors of their futures yet, usually. They openly bring the neediness of their tears of pain, their fears of distance from security, and their joys that hold no embarrassment.
They come into life full of courage. And when they face pain, fear, and embarrassment, they turn towards help so that they can heal, find security, and laugh again. In other words, when their initial expectations of life being easier, safer, and less humiliating than it actually is, they turn to help. They are good at seeking that which will let them return to full-hearted participation—being “all in” again. They express need. If their needs are met, they are “in”couraged to go towards life again. They are encouraged.
When we get older, courage often can become a pose, rather than an inner strength. We can hide our pain, fears, and joys behind a face of pretense that is actually a rejection of neediness. We forget that we need to be encouraged, having somehow rejected the reality that life is going to beat us up at times, or discourage us. Only by facing the ebbing of courage and the need to have another’s help, can we return to a place of full-hearted participation.
If becoming ashamed of need starts to have more power than our ability to ask for help, we will lose courage. Courage is only as consistent as our ability to ask for help. No one does life alone. We all need to be encouraged.
Courage in life comes in a bucket’s worth of supply. If we are living fully, the bucket will be emptied, one way or another, which means we have a need for encouragement. We need to be refilled. We will need to be encouraged by others to press forward. Ironically, through a child-like willingness to need help do we remain vibrant, grown-up earth-movers who step out into life to make a difference.