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.
February 3, 2017 at 6:28 am
So many times I’ve been tempted to accept that courage was something that applied only to the strong and healthy, people like you listed at the beginning of this post. But we really can all be courageous. Hey, just defending God’s word is courageous today.
February 23, 2017 at 5:34 pm
So true Bill. Thanks for your encouragement always. I notice you reply to your posts so quickly I need to learn from you my friend. God bless.
February 3, 2017 at 8:02 am
Phil thank you for your raw honesty. This is the best post you have written I think and I really see and believe that the best for you is yet to come. You need to know that you are getting to a place where you are truly speaking to people’s hearts and maybe your whole life has been leading to this. This resonates with every person who reads this. You have put into words what each of us experience and I thank you sincerely. This is real and I love it. Real is where it is at. No BS. Awesome. 🙂
February 23, 2017 at 5:36 pm
No BS love it! 🙂 Thanks Jayne I really do appreciate your encouragement.
February 3, 2017 at 9:20 am
Awesome, life changing words Phil. Bless ya bro!
February 23, 2017 at 5:36 pm
February 3, 2017 at 10:11 am
Thanks Phil and i probably cant put it any better than Jayne’s comments. I have been greatly inspired by you since you spoke to the men of our church. keep putting yourself out there, keep being courageous and we will keep praying for you. God Bless !!!
February 23, 2017 at 5:37 pm
Thanks Scott really appreciate your prayers bro.
February 3, 2017 at 5:09 pm
“Have i not commanded you, be thou strong and of good courage” …awesome word about a God given life command and delivered in great simplicity! Bless you Ps. Phil.
February 23, 2017 at 5:38 pm
And bless you too Patrick. Thanks.
February 4, 2017 at 8:51 am
Thank you PHIL. — Using that today. — On Duty. — at. Let Go Fest. —
In the War Room. — Above the thousands. Turning up. — knowing He is there. —
Guiding. Using. Blessing. Protecting. Those. Precious. People.
February 8, 2017 at 12:51 pm
Thank you Phil for such an inspirational post. I remember you from when I attended Life church in Auckland years ago and came to this site when someone recommended it following my own father’s recent diagnosis with MND. In the face of all the negativity that is associated with MND it has been refreshing and uplifting to read your blog. Thank you for your honesty and insights.
February 23, 2017 at 5:39 pm
Hi Amy.So sorry to hear about your dad. How is he today? Where does he live?
November 17, 2017 at 6:52 am
I’m afraid I only just saw your reply! I came back to reread this post as it had such a profound affect on me when I first read it. While obviously many people will relate it to living with MND, at the time, this post also resonated with me personally for other issues I was dealing with. I also shared it with others and it struck a chord with them and the issues they were facing too. That “our best is enough” may seem such a simple phrase but one that so many of us struggle to accept and embrace in our everyday situations – it was as though you’d written the post specifically for me at the time, with words I desperately needed to hear. So thank you. Your words gave me the ability to pause and breathe, and accept that I can’t be everything for everyone in the ways they want or demand of me – but that that’s ok, it’s ok to be me, the person God made me to be. I am trying my best, and that is enough.
My father lives in Auckland and is doing well thanks. The wheelchair is now in full use but like your post about being courageous describes, he is my hero. His first outing in the wheelchair to try it out involved a car trip, a train, downtown Auckland and a ferry. Crazy! And totally courageous 🙂
February 15, 2017 at 8:27 am
hi Phil, it was good to meet you at the pub (20th Jan).. you won’t remember me, but you made sense , when you said that maybe it’s my role to listen to my sister in the the U.K. It’s so very sad, got a message from her a few weeks ago, her husband took her away for a month,(Gran Canary), she hadn’t been away long, just over a week, and she wanted to come home, I chatted to her via tex, and I persuaded her to take one day at a time!I Also she would be going back to a very cold London , and she wouldn’t be doing anything different , and how nice to. be sitting n the warm sun, told her about the meeting that you had on the 20 Jan at the pub…She tex this!!
!!Dear Frances. That is very interesting. They working very hard for M N D. Mine is Bulbar M N D. . I hope it will help you as I understand how it’s is hurting you.Frances I can hardly swallow now I really have no choice. I am very weak but like you said we will hopefully stay to the end of the hoiiday. I just want to end it all . Robert is trying to be so upbeat. and positive he said we have to keep fighting but I am tried. Xxxx
Hope you don’t mind me uploading this on you!!! I remember you saying that maybe this is my role , that Sandra tells me how’s she going!!! I know she doesn’t say anything to my younger brother, he’s the baby 62 then Sandra who will be 65 the 1april I was there for her bday last year, then me,and my older sister who is 70 !!!!! Iv asked her if she wants me to come home again, and she said no, not yet!!! It’s all so difficult!! Anyway Phil thank you for listening. Kind regards Frances.
February 23, 2017 at 5:39 pm
You are being a wonderful sister under very trying times. God bless.