While doing some research for my next sermon, titled "Fearless", I found more than a few quotes considering bravery in people, in situations, and in life. There are many who have met me and seeing that I am tall and strong, they suspect that I fear nothing. The truth is, however, that just like all people, I have fears. As perhaps an introduction to this sermon, or maybe just a decent column, I wanted to address this issue in a way that any and hopefully all can relate to.
It was Brooke Foss Westcott, an English churchman and theologian, serving as Bishop of Durham from 1890 until his death in 1901, who once said, "Great occasions do not make heroes or cowards; they simply unveil them to the eyes of men. Silently and perceptibly, as we wake or sleep, we grow strong or weak; and last some crisis shows what we have become."
In other words, we are given many opportunities throughout our lives to be brave. Knowing full well, of course, that being brave does not mean that you are not afraid. Bravery is not the absence of fear, but the forging ahead despite being afraid. If someone tells you that they fear nothing, then they are fools and liars and they are not the kind of people that you want to be around.
That being said, we all have fears that we attempt to overcome. One of my biggest fears in the past was getting lost or separated from my group, mostly because it happened a few times and I didn't like it at all. As with any fear, the only way I could suppress it so that it would not take over my life was to face it head on. I purposely drove into an area that I was unfamiliar with by myself and had to get there because of an appointment. I made it to the appointment and every time I did this particular exercise, I got less and less afraid of being lost. Reasoning took over the power of fear until I was no longer afraid of getting lost. There are some who are afraid of the dark or afraid of too many people or not enough people, they are afraid of water or afraid of bad dreams or afraid of dying and even some are afraid of living. These are legitimate fears and I judge no one on being afraid of whatever.
It is a continuous circle that we drift in. We are told to be fearless and brave, yet we cannot truly be brave unless we are afraid.
What it all comes down to is that we must live rather than just exist and that takes being brave. Winston Churchill was quoted as saying, "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it the courage to continue that counts."
This was never more evident than in the movie "Rocky" where Sylvester Stalone's character gives this speech.
"Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place, and I don't care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done! Now, if you know what you're worth, then go out and get what you're worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain't where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain't you. You're better than that!"
If you know that you are afraid and yet you are willing to be brave, then you have nothing to fear.