I do not know how to explain why I love American Ninja Warrior.
My youngest daughter and I started watching it a few years back. We sat on the couch, side-by-side, mouths agape at what these individuals were able to do. Willing to do! She would laugh at me as my body would move in rhythm to theirs — whether they were swinging on some kind of contraption or trying to jump up to catch a ring, or trying to make it up the 14-foot warped wall — as though I could somehow will them success by fully participating in the comfort of my own home. The two of us would ooh and aah and cheer as they did amazing things, took spectacular falls, and always, always triumphed — no matter what. And we both cried through all the stories about the athletes, their families, hardships, tragedies, and miracles.
So why does this impact me so? Why do I cry? What is that about? It’s American Ninja Warrior!! I’m sure there are lots of reasons for my reactions and responses. But bottom line…It is a privilege to witness the inherent beauty of courage. I cannot help but be moved.
The beauty seen in their stories, their physical capacity, their falls, and their triumphs only comes because of the most incremental of efforts they’ve extended over a very long time. What we witness is the accumulation of small, almost imperceptible courageous acts.
We often think that courage has to be big and dramatic, bold and audacious, crowds cheering, loved ones weeping with joy, “victory,” of some sort. And though that may be true, I have a different idea.
Courage is small and incremental, slow and steady (sometimes fits and starts); the tiniest of choices made, actions taken, words spoken, behaviors altered, and/or lives changed.
This perspective matters.
As long as we see courage as big and dramatic, bold and audacious, we are often stopped before we start.
Instead, what about this:
- Courage is extending yourself some compassion, practicing self-kindness, and allowing yourself grace.
- Courage is only one sentence, once a day, spoken in truth. (Yes, just one!)
- Courage is voicing your opinion just once this week at work. (Yes, just once!)
- Courage is taking the time to list out the specific steps related to the big leap (Yes, just the list!)
- Courage is reading a book for even 30 minutes before turning on Netflix. It’s also watching Netflix without guilt or shame because you know that rest matters.
- Courage is letting yourself honestly name your emotions to yourself. (I am furious. I am devastated. I am afraid. I am in grief. I am lost. I am stuck. I desire. I am actually happy.)
- Courage is taking the time to write down what you would do if you felt even more courageous.
Cleary, I can go on (and on and on). But far more important than my words and thoughts — are yours. What are the smallest and most compassionate and kindest and most grace-filled acts of courage for you? (Start a list, add to this one, give yourself permission to consider courage as small; but no less significant, powerful, or transformative.)
This quote from Mary Anne Radmacher bears repeating:
Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying “I will try again tomorrow.”