In October we celebrate what it means to be a community embodying courage. We ask ourselves what we dare and how we can help each other, to live the love we wish we could. Courage is about, and this is my message for the month, Courage is about what it takes to jump in and do what needs to be done for love and those we love.
Courageous people change the world. There are so many examples of that this month. October is LGBTQ history month and reminds us of the many who bravely moved (and continue to move) our world toward greater acceptance and affirmation. The revolutionary prophet of peace, Mohandas Gandhi, was born on October 2. Our Christian friends celebrate Reformation Day and Martin Luther’s courage that changed how we all think about religious authority. We rightly honor such giants. The problem is most of us aren’t that tall.
Or are we? Here’s what we have to help each other remember: In addition to the heroic acts that alter history, there are also the daily choices that prevent history from altering us. Battling evil and bending the arc of the universe toward justice deserves praise, but there’s also the ordinary work of integrity and not allowing yourself to be bent. This needs to be noticed as well. There’s the bravery of embracing your beauty even when it doesn’t fit the air-brushed images surrounding you. There’s the courage of calling out the micro-aggressions that happen almost every day at work. And what about resisting the persistent seduction of status and stuff? The list is long: Turning down that drink one day at a time. Making yourself get out of bed when the depression tells you to stay there. Holding your partner’s hand in public. Make no mistake, there are dozens of ordinary acts of bravery we rise up to everyday!
Or maybe we should say there are dozens of ordinary acts of bravery we help each other rise up to every day. Courage is not only noble; it’s contagious. The bravery that makes it into the history books may save the world, but our ordinary courage keeps each other going. Watching someone else make it through another day helps us endure. Witnessing someone else confront bigotry allows us to bravely be more open about who we are. They say that courage is found by digging deep, but most often it is passed on.
So don’t worry so much if you haven’t changed the world yet. And certainly let’s stop comparing ourselves with those giants. Our work rests less in looking up to them and more in looking over at and gaining strength from each other. And remembering that others are looking over at and needing strength from us.
Here’s a spiritual exercise to help each of us move courageously out of our comfort zone.
We rarely give ordinary courage the honor it is due. On a daily basis, the threats we face are not the dramatic dangers of burning buildings but the insidious hazards of our comfort zones. This reminds us that the enemy of courage is often not fear but safety and routine. Sometimes those routines support and structure our lives; sometimes they stifle and shrink them. So this month, you are invited to pursue the practice of ordinary risk and adventure. Your instructions are simple: Pick an activity that pulls you out of your comfort zone. Here’s some inspiration and guidance from Lori Thayer who helps busy “mompreneurs” learn how to be more efficient, more fulfilled and find balance when they optimize their lives:
Enrich your life when you step out of the comfort zone. Tackling a new skill or taking an adventure that scares you a little helps you grow and makes you happier.
Most of us have a desire to be comfortable and play it safe. Trying something new can seem scary and not worth the effort. However, full enjoyment and fulfillment comes in those moments we step out of the comfort zone.
Think back to the most meaningful, amazing moments of your life. When you examine them you will find that they had you stepping out of your comfort zone. Trying something new and unfamiliar brings extra excitement and emotion to the event. These highs leave us with a greater sense of accomplishment and fulfillment that simply doing the same thing every day.
Stepping out of your comfort zone doesn’t have to be a death-defying adventure. It could be something as simple as traveling to a new place. One example is taking a photography challenge where you have to photograph 100 strangers, getting their name and a little bit about each one of them. For those of us who are not gregarious extroverts this is a huge step out of the comfort zone.
Often, the things that are scariest bring the greatest rewards. That being said, it may be easier to start with things that are closer to your comfort zone. As you gain a bit more confidence in yourself branch out into greater leaps.
Some ideas for getting out of your comfort zone are listed below. The size of the steps may be the same or different for you. These are just to give you an idea of in how to stretch yourself.
Small steps out of the comfort zone:
● Call a friend or relative you’ve lost contact with. Sign up for a blog challenge that stretches you.
● Speak in front of a group about a subject you are passionate about.
● Learn a new skill.
● Get up in the middle of the night to see a meteor show or hike to an amazing spot.
● Volunteer. If you’ve never worked with your hands volunteer with Habitat for Humanity and start to learn about building while helping others.
Medium sized steps out of the comfort zone:
● Travel on your own for vacation.
● Take a class in something you don’t think you have any talent for.
● Take a whitewater rafting trip.
● Write a book.
● Learn how to swim, if this is a skill you don’t have it can seem very daunting.
● Attend an event where you don’t know anyone. Don’t just be a wallflower either, talk to at least 5 people.
● Be the first to say, I love you.
● Quit your full-time, safe, job to start your dream job.
Huge steps out of the comfort zone:
● Fly in a very small plane piloted by a crazy friend.
● Hike the grand canyon.
● Visit a country where few of the residents speak English.
● Backcountry camping in Yellowstone, with the bears.
● Call up experts in your industry and ask for an interview or endorsement.
When you try new things and stretch your limits you will find they aren’t where you thought they were. You are capable of so much more than you ever believed.
And of course: Go to Church!
See you there,
Reverend Terry Sweetser