top of page

Primal Wisdom Part 4: Fear, Courage, and the Samurai’s Sword

A mentor of mine once told me: “Courage can only come from fear. Running into a burning building to save someone is only courage if the danger is understood and respected. Otherwise, it is not courage, but foolishness. And integrity comes from the discipline of creating a long history of courageous acts.” There are three aspects of this comment that I want to focus on.

The first is that courage can only come from fear. Those things that we shy away from, that we try to avoid, or that we rationalize away – those are our greatest opportunities for acting courageously. Be it a difficult conversation that requires us to be vulnerable but also clearly communicate what is most important to us, or the bold career move that will be challenging but enable us to more fully live your truth, or an uncomfortable dynamic between you and someone close to you that may require both of you to change, or facing an illness or ailment head-on and trying to understand everything about it instead of trying to ignore it, or fully taking responsibility for your life’s actions and experiences instead of waiting for someone else to take action and feeling like a victim . As Maya Angelou said: “Life loves the person who dares to live it.

The second point here is that, for something to truly be courageous, the danger needs to be understood and respected. In some cases, we may never be able to “fully” understand a danger because there are some things that are unknown or the unknowable. However, even humbly recognizing our limited understanding, is to respect the unknown and unknowable. Also, there needs to be a realization that as Joseph Campbell said, “I and the other are one – What I do to the system, I do to myself.” In other words, our intentions should be noble, altruistic, and not self-centered. For example, if there is a difficult discussion that needs to happen because you are not longer comfortable with someone that is close to you, then courageously have that conversation. However, know that the person may get sad or angry or upset (understand the danger) and speak with them not from a place of venting/blaming but rather from a place of communicating your feelings of discomfort (vulnerability and self-awareness), acknowledging their potential feelings and their right to feel those feelings as well as the how important your relationship with this is (respect), and being open to finding a healthier more fulfilling way of engaging moving forward which may involve making some major changes yourself (humility and openness). Even if the action ends up being “wrong”, “off”, or “mistaken”, when it is approached in this way of seeking the higher common good, we can learn from it and hopefully act more skillfully and in better alignment with our real truth moving forward. I have known people that just blurt out anything and everything that they are feeling or thinking – without taking time to really be aware of what is going on for them, without awareness of how it may make others feel or how it contributes to a greater good, and with no intention of potentially changing their own actions or perspective. This is not courageous action. This is foolishness and ultimately undermines one’s own integrity.

The final aspect of this week’s thought is that integrity only comes from a long, repeated, history of consistently courageous acts. This is true for anything of substance and meaning. These things take time, discipline, constantly coming back to the same again and again – and eventually something amazing and powerful is forged. There is a great analogy with how the master craftsman creates a samurai sword – it is a process of repeatedly heating, hammering, and folding metal that may take upwards of 7 months.

  1. Testing through extremes - In the process of repeatedly heating and quenching, the metal is put through extremes. As it is tested in this way, gradually the impurities are removed and the optimal balance of strength and flexibility is found.

  2. Regular engagement - Through the hammering the heated metal, the master is constantly engaging with the metal – hammer blow after hammer blow - thousands of times over. Through the constant engagement and the short periods of reflection in between, they both learn from each other about their qualities and behaviors an fine tune their interactions.

  3. Deep self-reflection - Finally, the process of folding the metal onto itself allows the improvement that come from hammering the one portion to be incorporated into the rest of the metal. This further improves its strength and removes impurities but also ensures that the entire block of metal is of the highest quality and strength throughout – the “lessons” of one area become internalized to the entire system.

Through going through this process again and again, over and over, the master craftsman eventually creates something of beauty, reverence, and power that is light and strong and strikes true. It is a tool and weapon that can be used to skillfully cut through the entanglements and challenges of life and - with care - it will last for generations. This is what comes of repeatedly facing our fears, acting from a place of courage, seeking to understand how each situation could have been handled more authentically, using each opportunity for further growth and awareness, and then repeating the process again… and again… and again. After years or decades or a lifetime of courageous acts, we find ourselves with an unbreakable, uncompromised integrity that is felt, known, and respected by everyone we engage with and will hopefully inspire those around us (our family, friends, and colleagues) and through them future generations to come.

Featured Posts
Check back soon
Once posts are published, you’ll see them here.
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
No tags yet.
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page