Perhaps one of the most important qualities in spiritual growth is courage. Courage is what enables us to move through our fears rather then cover them up. Michael Kimmel, a sociologist and leader in Men’s Studies, illustrated one way even our youth have learned to cover up their fears. He said the easiest way to start a fight is to walk on to a playground and ask which one of the kids playing is gay. The fear of anyone thinking you are gay is enough to provoke an all out effort to prove their masculinity, and to demasculate others. There are aspects of our personality, which we are supposed to cover up. We are not supposed to show weakness, especially men. “Are you a baby?” countless people have done things because somebody has dared them to and they did not want others to think they were afraid to do something.
Sometimes, we look at people and think they are so courageous. Gary Zukav tells the story of business tycoon who has struggled all his life with feeling as if he was of value. To cover up his fear, he built a business. No matter how large his empire became, it never addressed that part of him which still doubted he was of value. To many, he might appear quite courageous and of immense wealth. To himself, he still felt as if he was not of value.
This tendency to cover up is something many of us have been taught to do. So often, I will read or hear people talk about how they were afraid, but they did it anyway. I was afraid to jump, but I did it anyway. I was afraid to play in public, but I did it anyway. I was afraid of X, but I did it anyway because I did not want anyone to see I was afraid or to let the fear stop me. So we learn to cover it up. We cover up because it makes us feel accepted, valuable, and safe.
Courage up is not about covering up the fear, but working through the root of the fear. It is about making decisions out of a place of authentic power, not the desire for external power. When we courage up, we eliminate the fear we are feeling and experience a level of personal and spiritual fulfillment. When we courage up, we take responsibility for our feelings, experiences and actions. When we courage up, then we take responsibility for all our decisions which brought us to where we are today. We can then decide which of those choices we would choose to make again, and which ones we would choose to do differently. For example, a few years ago I was having a phone conversation with an authority figure in my life who began yelling and screaming at me and asking me in a very hostile tone what my problem was. What I really wanted to say to him was that I did not trust him. At that point, I chose to cover up and out of fear said, I didn’t know. If I could make that decision today, I would have made a different decision and spoke my truth out of a place of integrity then lie out of a place of fear.
Courage up is about practicing integrity. It is about speaking truth in love at all times, especially when the fearful part of us wants to run and hide somewhere. We courage up when we say or do what is the most difficult. Sometimes that means responding despite the fear within one’s self. Other times, it might mean responding when you sense someone else is covering up.
Covering up separates us from others and ourselves. When we courage up, we develop a deeper relationship with ourselves and with others. Starting today, courage up and stop covering up.