Have you ever had someone encourage you to do something really stupid and you did it? When I was in high school, there was a guy who was saying things about me that I didn’t like, and a mutual friend said, “Hey, you two should fight.” Alright. Now that we’ve discovered a mature way to settle this, just give me a date, time, and location. So we met up at the mutual friend’s house one day after school, and the plan was to fist fight in the front yard.
The problem is that I’m really nervous because I’ve never fought anyone before and I weigh maybe 130 pounds. The other guy was bigger than me, and as we danced around each other with our fists up, he had this crazy look in his eye that I would’ve never seen coming. Though I knew in that moment that this guy wanted to hurt me, I was committed. I could do this, I kept telling myself.
We must’ve danced around in circles for five minutes before I finally decided to take the first swing. I missed. As I’m regrouping, I feel the other guy’s fist hit me in the face, which throws me back.
The dance is, of course, over, and I suddenly come to my senses. “This is stupid,” I say. “Why are we doing this?” So says the guy who’s trying not to cry because his face hurts so bad. So we decided to end the fight. Mutually, of course. Nobody won. But I walked away with a black eye, and he didn’t.
It really was stupid, but did I really need to be encouraged to do something like that? Did it really take courage? Not at all. It would’ve been more courageous not to fight about something stupid just because I didn’t want to look like a wimp.
I love the word encourage because it means to create courage in another person. There are so many things that we want to do, even feel a deep longing to do, but we lack the courage to do them. We’re paralyzed by fear and often take the road with the least amount of risk. So if it’s writing a novel, asking someone to marry you, being a great father or mother, loving your spouse relentlessly, or starting a business that impacts the world, without courage, some of the most important and positively life-altering events in our lives may never happen. That’s where the people who care most about us come in and say the things that create courage in us. Several years ago when my wife and I were dating, she once told me that she wouldn’t be surprised if she would be buying my books in a bookstore someday. I live off the courage of those words when it comes to writing to this day. You probably can think of a similar time in your own life.
But it’s also important for us to be the ones to create courage in others. Having courage created in you is incredible, but creating it in others is truly life-giving. It gets us out of what we want most and into the hopes and dreams of the people we care about. Some of the people you know want to do something so much, yet lack of courage stops them. And it could be the difference between a life that changes the world and a life that just settles on just surviving each day.