I had it all wrong.
I never understood what it meant to be my best. Not just that, I couldn’t see courage, even when it was staring back at me.
This is a candid tale of sorts about how I found the roadmap to my best self, on the rocky pathway of courage.
Let me begin by saying that I look at people who do brave things, like firemen, emergency services, or our armed forces and I think, “that’s courage!” We don’t call these people courageous because of the outcome of their attempts. We call them courageous because they were willing to give of their best. They put themselves on the line to save the lives of others.
Just the other week, we saw two young boys try to stop a man hell-bent on hurting innocent people. We called those boys courageous, not because they succeeded in stopping the man from killing four people, but because they did their best. They may have felt disappointment and failure, but we saw courage.
Funnily enough, courage is something we tend to see in others but rarely do we see it in ourselves.
We can dismiss it as unattainable because we may go through our whole life and we are never required to act courageously in such a public way.
This is where I had it all wrong. Courage is not only attainable for me and you, it’s also necessary to be the best we can be.
Let me explain what I mean. Because of the effect of Motor Neurone Disease (MND) / ALS on my body, I experience weakening of my muscles and muscle wastage, effecting my ability to speak, walk and eat as well as I once did. I am progressing slowly which I am very thankful for, but I still experience these effects.
This made me think that I was not courageous because I was not being the best version of myself that I had been. I was not as strong, or fit, or capable. I was not being enough or doing enough.
I thought I was only being courageous if I showed up when people wanted me to and I was positive all the time and completely doubt free. I was courageous if I could perform how I thought a courageous person would perform.
And yet, here lays the dilemma:
When I see you doing the best you can, I see courage. But when I looked at myself, I couldn’t see it.
The raw truth is this:
I saw what you call courage in me as weakness.
I turn up with my failing body and you see courage, when all I see is weakness.
I speak of my fears and hopes and you see courage, where I feel humiliation.
I struggle with my faith and you see courage, but I am disappointed.
Then I began to realise that that is exactly what courage is.
When you are weak, when you are disappointed, when you are knocked down, but still, you turn up, you be your best self, you don’t allow those moments to destroy your ability to wrestle with your doubt, your pain, your vulnerability, your humiliation and unbelief – THAT IS COURAGE!
Friend, if you never have times of doubt, vulnerability, pain or weakness then you will never require courage to turn up anyway.
This doesn’t mean we won’t be a better version of ourselves tomorrow, but the beginning of being a better you, is accepting that who you are today is enough.
You cannot rise to a better you if you are always starting from a place of self hate and insecurity.
That means, I need to give myself the grace, compassion and kindness to accept that I’m doing my best today. Will I fail, fall and disappoint? Yes! But I was giving my best and so I get up and move forward, and have another go.
Recently, I was visiting with a young mum who has MND / ALS. She has just received her wheelchair as her legs are failing her. She told me about how she had caught a public bus in her wheelchair with kids in tow for the first time. Let me say that again: a public bus, in a wheelchair, with kids in tow.
Look no further. This is courage. In her weakness, she is turning up and doing life the best she can.
So, what is courage?
You are courage, and I am courage.
Courage is knowing that life can deliver pain and even tremendous disappointment, and then turn up anyway.
Courage is moving forward through our weakness when we want to stay put or turn back the other way.
Courage is facing the reality of our limitations as part of the process of growth and life.
Courage is living a purposeful life, knowing that there is every possibility you may win or you may fail and fall.
Courage is knowing that you can accept either outcome when you have BEEN your best and will continue BECOMING your best.
There is a saying: “God is not finished with me yet.” Well, it’s true, God is one hundred per cent not finished with you yet.
Take a deep breathe, and know you have permission to be your best.
And your best is enough.