Definition of Coward
“one who shows disgraceful fear or timidity”
Our family recently climbed a mountain that is close to our home. It’s not Everest but it does require a bit of climbing up some of the rock faces. The level of difficulty would be classed as very easy but it is a reasonable climb with a magnificent view at the end.
My eldest son doesn’t like heights. From some people’s perspective it might seem that his fear is unreasonable and irrational because sometimes it’s quite limiting for him. This last time as we climbed this mountain I watched him carefully at one point as we climbed up one of the rock faces. I could see his fear and uncertainty as he took each cautious step forward.
When we got to the top I could see his visible relief that he had made it. I made sure we had the time for a quiet moment together and I told him how proud I was that he had made it. My observation was that he didn’t allow his fear to stop him from doing what needed to be done. His fear was real and palpable yet he didn’t allow it to stop him from climbing that mountain.
Fear is a part of everyone’s life. Unreasonable fear can create all sorts of anxiety that if left unchecked can leave us paralysed. I love the words from one of Jesus’ sermons that spoke words of comfort for those who are seeking courage and comfort.” How happy are those who know sorrow.” This is the person who has pushed this world to its limits and recognised its disappointments. The paradox of our humanity is expressed in the contrast between happy and sorrow. Normally you wouldn’t expect them to be in the same sentence.
“How happy are those who know what sorrow means for they will be given courage and comfort! “
J B Phillips
Happiness comes when the limitations of our world are owned honestly, and we understand that relationships will fall short of expectations, material benefits can come and go and prestige can be a fleeting experience. When this is realised and we become vulnerable we are prepared to face our real fears, the ones that will take us to our source.
For many people this is the step that they don’t want to take. As David Whyte says in his poem, “Start Close In”, this is the first step, the step that we don’t want to take. I wrote give me the coward to seek to distinguish from the self declared hero to the person that has recognised his fears, and knows that he is the coward. From this recognition comes the capacity to demonstrate courage in the face of adversity.
The passage from Matthew’s gospel that I quoted earlier is alluding to those people who have started close in, they will know their sorrow, but then out of their sorrow those people get the truest idea of what love looks like. In my poem it’s not the hero who really knows love, they are caught up in their heroic deeds and are forgetful of courage’s testing by love.
In, “Give me the coward”, I chose the word coward because it’s that person who knows the unreasonableness of who they are and feel the deep pain of the tragic gap of who we desire to be and what we know we are. That person is the one that has learned the deep sorrow that comes from life and all of its disappointments. They have felt the fear that comes from when their world spins totally out of control. But, this is the persona who will know happiness. Courage emerges from facing their sorrows and responding in love and kindness. The coward has the more opportunity to be a hero than the person trapped in a self declared sense of grandeur.
Give me the coward
The measure of a man is not in his grandest thoughts,
The self deluded picture of a courageous act,
Reality brings all actions together,
Truth explores love’s result
Courage sifted by love,
Give me the coward who can sob about his weakness,
Who knows there are other things to cry about,
He can gaze into the weariness of sadness,
Eyes feeling the glare of judgement,
The delusions of control,
The best human stories are redemptive stories. They are the one’s where our biggest failures are transformed into a redeeming triumph. These are the heart stories that we yearn for because such stories provide all of us with hope. Give me the coward sought to be such a story. It seeks to explore the nature of true courage and develop a deeper understanding of each person’s possibility for redemption.