Courage To Change

The devil you know is the devil you own.

There is a reason you cling to what you have now, even if it is not serving you.

Change is change, away from the familiar and into the unknown.

That’s why Reinhold Niebuhr’s original “Serenity Prayer” asks for the courage to change and not for the strength to change.

When change looms before us we get scared, pull back, no matter how much we know we need change.

Resisting change, trying to defang change, trying to squeeze change down so it can only occur on our terms, trying to keep change limited to what we already know and want, well, these are all ways to thwart change.

Everyone wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die.   We all want new and better, but we don’t want to have to pay the price of letting go of what we have now, releasing our grip on our assumptions and expectations, the price of a leap into an unknown future.

Trusting that divine surprise, well, it is terrifying.  It takes courage.

Two-thirds of help is to give courage.
— Irish proverb

One of the most important things I do on a one-to-one basis is to encourage change.   I reflect the limits and challenges that others speak and remind them of the moments where they felt a glimmer of light, reminding them of the glow change can offer.

This is hard work.

We have constructed strategies and rationalizations that help us resist change, that hold change isn’t really possible for us.   We know the lessons of our past in the way we have learned them, the feedback we have gotten from those who support us.   That is usually a sharing of fear, a explanation of futility, an assertion that it has always been this way and so will always be this way.

If we are convinced change is impossible, then why waste our precious life force and risk our safety, comfort and scarce resources on a futile gesture?

Why even try?

I believe in the power of change, which is why I speak what I do, encouraging others.

Like most humans, though, I have trouble believing that change is possible for me.   I live in my own mind, trained by my own experiences of the world, and I am as clear as anyone else is of how hard and scary change is.  I know where I have been sabotaged in change by those around me and I know how I have internalized those beliefs.

A coach read my blog entries and his instant summary was “better is possible, there are smarter choices, but in closing, let me tell you why they won’t work for me.”

I found that reductive, but the most frustrating thing was how I had been begging him for encouragement.   Instead, he wanted to fight me, in his mind helping make me clear on my understanding.  I went to sharpen my performance, to learn to trust the spirit of “Yes!  And…”, to learn to take the risk and leap, knowing that there would be others to help me up if I fell, and instead I got reflections of his own fear of change.

I have often called on people just to say “Yes, yes, yes, yes” to me, to affirm my possibilities.

“A therapist is someone who sees in you something that you do not yet see in yourself,” goes one definition.

An encourager is someone who believes in something that you are having trouble believing in yourself.   They support you in taking a leap. even if they know that the results will never lead to a perfect outcome, may end up in lessons rather than satisfaction.   Learning is the only way to reshape our understanding and make better choices.  If we never try, we never grow, although that growth will always take us to new and unexpected places.

Change takes the courage to trust in the unknown.   We all have strength, can find a way to muster it to gain a guaranteed outcome, but there are no guarantees in life.   It takes courage to risk what we have for the chance at a better future, to leave our comfort zone and open to growth which takes us into uncharted possibilities.

Giving smart and compassionate encouragement to others is one of the most important things I can ever do.  I say “Yes!” and affirm what I see as the best in other people, knowing that even if they fall, they have the power to break that fall, find new stability and move forward with grace lies deep within them at their core.

I work to give them permission to change and grow, even when that takes years of fighting their own internalized fears and assumptions.   It is a slog, hard and difficult work to engage their fear and resistance, because everyone heals in their own time and their own way, but supporting new and better is the most important thing any change agent can do in this world.

Healing requires letting go of old patterns that do not serve us well and having the courage to become new.

Giving that encouragement,  helping people find their own courage to change, is a great calling.   Mix that offering with a bit of wisdom and serenity and people can become the change they need to see in the world.

I’m so good at it though because I have felt the need for it on my own skin so acutely.  I give what I need, what I crave.   I understand what others should hear because I am a wounded healer, my own damage informing my service to others.

Change is possible.  Knowing that, though, even as strongly as I know it down in my essence, is different from believing that for myself.   We all need reflections, mirroring which gives us permission to know what we know and feel what we feel.   For me, that mirroring has been very fractured.

Change, exposure, leaps take courage.

Courage requires encouragement.