We get so caught up in thinking that we need to be bold and loud as we tackle our fears and take on new adventures. We think we have to shout to the world how strong and fearless we are. But sometimes, the greatest courage whispers.
I was reminded a couple weeks ago that there is still beauty and honor in a quiet strength. My youngest was so scared to get on a carousel. He is very much like me and wants to observe and analyze every possible angle before trying something new. The man operating the ride noticed him back out when we got the front of the line and the stationary carriages were already taken. He told us to wait at the exit for the next ride and he would let us on first to make sure he could get on a carriage.
I watched my little boy’s face teeter back and forth between excitement and fear as he watched the carousel spin. He gripped the rail and my hand a little tighter every once in a while. He smiled whenever he caught me watching him, whether to reassure me or himself, I’m not sure. As the ride slowed to a halt, and people poured out the exit, I noticed him shifting his feet anxiously. We got on the ride and he questioned the lack of seat belts and gave himself little pep talks while we waited for the ride to begin.
After it did, I snapped a photo to capture the calm strength that inspired me to write this. He was not yelling and cheering to the world about how great this ride was or how brave he felt for conquering his fear. There were no people cheering him on loudly. In fact, I doubt if anyone else even realized the mountains he was moving within his own little world in that moment. But there he sat, with a soft grin on his face, his fists balled up, and his arm muscles flexed in his seat.
How often do we wait for crowds to cheer us on and validate our journey? How often do we only share the moments when our courage roars loudly? But there are people watching, even when our courage whispers. When it shuffles from one foot to the other anxiously. When it can barely muster a grin of reassurance. It may not be witnessed by millions or applauded for the world to see, but that quiet strength often has more power for the few who are watching and will move the greatest mountains in our lives. That quiet courage isn’t fueled by approval, but the small sparks inside our soul that dare us to face the battles that may only ever have meaning to our own selves.
The quiet courage also teaches us about the people we surround ourselves with. It would have been easy for the festival worker to be agitated with us and let us leave without a second thought. But he took the time to see the struggle happening within my son and reach out a helping hand. Anyone could have seen him wrestling with fear and brushed it off with a harsh “get over it! There’s nothing to be afraid of.” The majority of the people cheering for your large victories won’t stick around for the silent battles. Some of them might even ridicule you for struggling with the fear in the first place. But the ones who see you and walk alongside you in the silence, those are your people. Those are the ones who will see past the social media posts, the filters, and the moments of roaring courage to look deeper into the person you are working to become.
Sometimes courage roars, but sometimes it whispers. Sometimes people will cheer and applaud, but friends will walk through the silence too.