A Different Kind of Courage

courageThere are so many quotable quotes from Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection. I was surfing through my bookmarks and highlights this morning and was having trouble even knowing where to start – there’s just so much good stuff to talk about! This book talks about what it means to live wholeheartedly and how we have to talk about the things that get in the way (shame & fear) before we can even think about living wholeheartedly. The problem is that none of us want to talk about shame and fear – these emotions are often intensely painful and we prefer to keep them shrouded in secrecy.

I know I have a really hard time being vulnerable about these things – even with myself. I prefer to view myself as competent and wise, more used to helping other people than needing any help myself. Case in point: I’m still not sure I really “needed” this book, but I think the material is fabulous for other people. Ha! Needless to say, I read the book through twice and now I should probably chew on these concepts for longer than I think necessary.

For example, let’s look at a few things Brown says about courage. Courage is a major part of the book – obviously, it takes courage to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and work toward more authenticity. Brown writes that,

“the root of the word courage is cor- the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage had a very different definition than it does today [She’s comparing that to our common definition of courage as fearless action]. Courage originally meant ‘to speak one’s mind by telling one’s heart.'”

I love this definition. It sounds like something I like to think I already do on a regular basis. However, Brown turns the tables a bit with this illustration:

“Do you know how incredibly brave it is to say ‘I don’t know’ when you’re pretty sure everyone around you gets it? Of course, in my twelve-plus years of teaching, I know that if one person can find the courage to say, ‘You’ve lost me,’ there are probably at least ten more students who feel the exact same way. They may not take the risk, but they certainly benefits from that one person’s courage.”

I know I’ve been the one relieved that someone else asked the question but wow, I don’t think I’ve ever been the person to ask a teacher to re-explain themselves. I’m pretty sure I’ve always done my best to act like I know exactly what’s going on and look down on those poor slow people who don’t get it yet. Ouch!

This is a terrible attitude not only because it’s dishonest and judgmental but because it closes you off from actually learning. Have you ever had that experience? Where you get in over your head and instead of just admitting, “I really don’t know much about this – please explain it to me,” you get defensive and wreck the conversation? Yeah . . . I’m working on asking for clarification and telling people I don’t understand what they’re talking about. I know it’s better for me to ask questions and really learn but sometimes the pull to be viewed as “the smart one” still makes me do pretty stupid things. Go figure.

Do you relate to this?