Beyond Courage (and Crests).


What lies beyond spawns myths, and spooks many from its pursuit.

Courage, though cardinal, isn’t the crest. Something lies beyond even doing our best. What this is only reveals when we’ve done what we shun, because none have accomplished it before. In taking standards as our stand, we shun more. “Who am I,” we deride, “to raise the tide?” This rebuke aborts our beginnings before we begin. We forget, moreover, that tides rise when we commit to pursuing our prize.

Yet we fail because we dwell on our insecurities, being modest rather than honest in our aims.

We behave as if Modest is the zenith. Modest, however, masks our genius. It also mocks our promise, which failure informs and insecurities inflate. In fact, when failure falls too often, we learn to soften and expect less of ourselves. Paradoxically, however, we expect more of others.

Consider our criticism of the accomplished and the courage they exude in their efforts to succeed. Consider also our contempt when they fail. How fiercely then do we impale. Consider also our newsfeeds, how they blast these because achievers embrace what we reject, namely, fear and its lies. They refuse to let fear advise lest it vanquish their vision.

Achievers give us something to condone (and condemn) depending upon our moods and our whims. In this regard, critique is our national conceit. When fear informs, we defer our deeds even as we dull our intuitions by spite and criticism. Without achievers we would be even more beleaguered than we are. We would also have to face ourselves and our fears. Thus far, we choose to be beleaguered instead.

We are beleaguered because we believe less in ourselves than we should. Else we wouldn’t settle where we are for what we have. We would embrace instead our path, despite the problems that perplex. We abandon it, however, because we let time and age affect. How we handle these feeds our response to risks. In fearing risks, fear defeats us before we begin.

Some people use caveats like caviar, pausing their lives and pursuing their lips in anticipation (repulsion perhaps).

We seldom admit to being defeated, even if we are. We claim instead to be content, crowned, even, by what we’ve been given. Yet in honest moments, we admit to being swindled by senses that siphon our greatness, which denial endorses. By denial, we inflate courage and forfeit the crest, frightened by what lies beyond this.

Denial reduces courage to words and crests to whims, which we embrace only when disgust tears until we swear, “I’ve got to do better than this.”

Better, however, requires risks to accomplish. Without risks, we rewind the past and repeat the present while being absent to ourselves, our greatness at least. If we were present to this, we would seize courage and assault crests until we exceeded our best. We would do so because we realize that courage, though cardinal, isn’t the crest, that something lies beyond even our best.

Each of us aches to experience this something before we close our eyes for the last time. In failing, we close our minds, feigning courage and forfeiting crests and what lies beyond these. Only when we embrace risks do we experience the balm of what lies beyond. Experience requires us to achieve according to our excellence as a prerequisite.

In succeeding, we give our children what words can’t, namely, an example of human potential, which time can’t tarnish and criticism can’t diminish. By this, they perceive that a good example is the best advice. Hence the need to embody what words embellish. Hence the need to confront denial and complaisance.

In this regard, much of what we say deceives, because we embrace complaisance over courage and caves over crests. We hide herein when challenged to exceed our best. Complaisance dilutes courage and denies crests. It also erodes confidence. Without confidence, courage seems excessive and crests elusive, unwise, even, to imagine, pursue also. Hence our indifference to what lies beyond these.

What we imagine shows if we believe in ourselves as much as we say, despite our outcomes.

True confidence transcends outcomes (how comes too) when understood rightly. True confidence transcends outcomes because of the echo in the soul which says, “You can do better than this.” Honored, this echo impels us forward. Censored, complaisance prevails as we continue to doubt ourselves. Hence the dissension that incites self-recrimination.

Dissension accrues when we fail to move towards our dreams.

Consider seasons wherein we experience insensible cycles. Consider how herein courage fades and crests feed our insecurities. Consider how our senses distort our self-image until cycles suffocate. These cycles beget cyclones when we disown our agency. They beget passivity when we deny our potency. Then we embrace complaisance over courage and denial over crests.

Only in maturity do we admit their mockery, as grief strikes and time strips our excuses. Until then, we don’t see complaisance for what it is. Nor do we see ourselves because our excuses make sense when we make them. Most excuses do. Hence their tendency to accrue with time and deny us the tides we envisioned before we were driven from ourselves. Consider the vows we uttered before fear neutered.

Consider how powerfully life poured and dreams compelled because we desired to unveil our greatness. Consider how we embraced our capacity heedless of circumstances and their constraints. Consider now how constraints beset. What lies beyond courage and crests remains concealed until we renew our vows.

Moreover, if this were named, we would damn those who name. Yet how can we damn what we’ve never dared? How can we dare when denial dupes and complaisance cheats? Denial deprives us of courage and crests and all that is best within ourselves and about life. In doing so, what lies beyond becomes inaccessible (and unadvisable) save in forms fear prescribes.


joelbryantA former corporate trainer and university lecturer, Dr. Joel Bryant is an avid reader, writer, speaker, thinker and dreamer. He is also the author of over 40 books on various topics, each exploring themes of change, growth and greatness. He holds a doctorate in Educational Leadership from UNC Charlotte, where he spent five years lecturing in the Philosophy Department. He resides in Charlotte, NC.


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