When courage means running away

A friend commented yesterday that she admired my courage in having left my job—and having done it without support. Although I’ve heard that before, it always surprises me because I don’t think of myself as a courageous person. In fact, I suspect that there are many people would see me more as a foolish coward who ran away from a bad situation rather than someone who dealt with the situation courageously.

So what is the truth? Did I run away from a bad situation like a foolish coward? Or did I display courage in removing myself from an unhealthy situation so I could move forward toward a healthier, more fulfilling future?

As I pondered this, I was reminded of a conversation we recently had in my yoga teacher training class about a chapter on courage in Judith Lasater’s Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life. In our reading, she had been talking about the crucial distinction between “doing something foolish just to appear brave and doing something that actually required courage.”

“But how do you choose action? How do you differentiate between taking care of yourself and your need to overcome resistance or fear? […] Whatever you decide, know that courage is not forcing yourself to do something because you want to be accepted, or don’t want to look like a coward or be embarrassed. You express foolishness when you simply acquiesce, unwilling or unable to find your voice to object or decline.” ~Judith Lasater

As one of my teachers put it, sometimes running away from something that you know is not right for you is the most courageous thing you can do, especially when you know that this may make you look like a coward to others. If you are doing something only to impress other people, that’s not true courage. That shifted my whole concept of what courage really is.

By that standard, I absolutely acted with courage. Maybe that’s why it so often doesn’t feel like courage to me. Yes, it was (and is) scary. Yes, I had to overcome some significant fear to act. But at the end of the day, I knew with unfailing certainty that it was absolutely the right thing for me to do in that moment no matter what anyone else thought. It felt more like a necessity to my soul than an act of courage.

Maybe I have more courage than I ever dreamed. I just didn’t know what I was looking for before. It gives me a whole new lens for viewing courage and for viewing myself. How might I live differently if I know myself as a woman of courage.

A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a very fragile place, and it takes a good deal of vulnerability to share this personal journey of transformation so openly. Therefore, I need this to be a safe place for exploration and sharing for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight—or the expression of that experience or insight—are NOT welcome here and will be deleted.

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3 thoughts on “When courage means running away

  1. Pingback: Courage « creatingreciprocity

  2. Sometimes I want to run away my life is not happy but i feel that i have failed if i run. I loved a man who betrayed, me I loved a man who used me: he used me all up. i feel trapped i feel alone he has isolated me from friends and family he wants me to be part of his pretend world where we play happy families, families in a big house he feels superior to all. I provide the income I to would like to stop working and enjoy life but that will never happen. To night he again tightened the noose he has moved further into his own world,a world that i can enter f i do it his way. Every day i drive up the hill and i want to keep driving i dont want to take the turn i want to run and never look back that would take such courage i dont know if i am brave enough

  3. Debbie,
    That sounds like a very stressful (and possibly frightening) situation. I hope you can find the courage and the wisdom to make whatever change is right for you — whether that’s leaving or finding a way to change the situation so you can stay happily. Just the fact that you have reached out here tells me that you have so much more courage than you know, and once you know in your heart of hearts what is right for you, I believe you will find the courage that you need to do it.
    Sending you many blessings!
    A Musing Dryad

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