“Check it out,” my friend said. “The boys are going off the high dive.”
I stopped watching my younger son, who was splashing in the shallow end of the pool, and spun my head toward the diving well. Sure enough, there was Jack and one of his buddies, racing up the ladder of the high dive.
He quietly, but confidently, ventured up and out, stepped off the edge and let gravity take care of the rest.
As I watched him, I was struck with sense of awe. A fear of high dives is just one of my many fears and, as I watched Jack climb up and look over the edge, I found myself wondering how he had summoned the courage to do something that he was still, visibly, a bit apprehensive about. How he was able to decide that jumping off the high dive was something that he wanted to do and then go ahead and do it, without questioning, without focusing on the risks, and without asking whether I thought he was capable of doing so. How he had pushed aside his fear so that opportunity could win out.
I also found myself praying that this thing, this Beating Fear thing, that he had in him now would never leave; that this Determination Over Apprehension thing would continue to grow and manifest itself for bigger, greater things; that the world, with all of its can’t’s and shouldn’t’s and what-if’s, wouldn’t beat this Fearless and Prepared Confidence thing and its potential to change the world; and that my own desire to keep my children safe wouldn’t quash this Smart and Brave Risk-Taking thing simmering inside of them.
Because as Rachel Rowell writes, “A life of impact isn’t born from a childhood spent in an incubator. World changers are the very ones who have tried and failed the most…and then wiped the dirt from their bleeding wounds – and tried all over again.”
And the truth is a life of impact, of world-changing, and of meaning and fulfillment, for that matter, isn’t born out of the comfortable path and focusing on the reasons why something can’t be done; it’s born out of smart risk-taking and helping our children figure out a way that something can be done.
And it doesn’t stop with our children. A life of impact as adults – a life of connection, transformation, and meaning – isn’t born out of fear and affectation and taking the safe route. A life of impact isn’t created by doing what we think we should do, or following the crowds. A life of impact isn’t fostered by closing ourselves off and withdrawing and keeping up with the Jones’s. A life of impact isn’t born out of fear.
A life of impact is born out of wits and faith. A life of impact is made out of dirty hands and messy clothes, skinned knees and bruised hearts, broken-down egos and white knuckles.
I’m trying to be braver, less fearful, and more confident that if I act in love and with love, that God and the Universe will take care of the rest. And in some ways, I am beating the fear. But in many ways, the fear continues to win. I might not say the things that I feel out of fear that I might look weak. I might second-guess the validity and worth of my opinions and feelings and viewpoints. I might not overexert myself (emotionally or physically) out of fear that I might break (emotionally or physically). I might hold pieces of myself back, I might not challenge myself enough in matters of the mind and heart and spirit.
Truth be told, I sometimes let the risks outweigh the benefits when I write. Though some might say that writing about one’s personal life is bold or brazen, in some respects, I write timidly and cautiously out of fear that readers – including friends and family members – might be offended or think differently (less?) of me based on something that I write. I edit myself, tone things down, delete, or forego certain topics all together.
Sometimes the editing is out of respect for the feelings of my friends and family members, and sometimes it’s out of a need to keep certain parts of my private life, well, private. But, much of the time, it’s just the fear talking. Fear that my opinions are less valid if they are different. Fear that someone might think less of me, as a person and as a writer. Fear that I will get hurt.
So I let my fear of the risks outweigh my faith in the possibilities.
But building a life of impact – whether as adults or for our children – is not born out of a cost-benefit analysis that favors the costs. A life of impact means living bravely and boldly, courageously and confidently. A life of impact means living fearlessly, with both wits and faith.
Living bravely does not mean acting selfishly or unkindly, but it does mean risking our own discomfort for the comfort of others. It means putting ourselves out there, breaking down our own walls, and baring our souls in the hopes of touching someone else’s. Living boldly does not mean breaking the rules, but it does mean questioning the rules, reexamining conventionality, and maintaining flexibility. It means stepping out of our comfort zones, regularly and constantly, and encouraging others to do the same.
Living courageously does not mean unwavering certainty and conviction, but it does mean fostering an insatiable desire to change and evolve and grow, and a willingness to feel the pain endured throughout that process. Living confidently does not mean disrespecting others, but it does mean trusting our instincts and our own voice. It means understanding the inherent worth and value of our opinions and viewpoints, regardless of how different they may be.
Living fearlessly does not mean foolishly ignoring the risks, but it does mean daring with wits and faith. It means acting with awareness and knowledge, understanding the potential risks and rewards, and sometimes placing a higher premium on the latter rather than the former. It means acting smartly and preparedly, while trusting that Something outside of us will guide us along the way.
In order to build lives of impact and raise future “world changers,” we need to help our children learn how to act boldly and bravely, with respect and kindness. How to dare and dream, with confidence and optimism. How to take smart risks, with awareness and preparation. How to live fearlessly, with wits and faith.
And we need to remind ourselves to do the same.
Tell me: How are you battling and beating fear? How are you teaching your kids to act boldly and bravely, with smart risk-taking? And how are you doing the same?