Courage is one of those things that I’m always on a quest to find. As a child, I was often labeled as “timid” and “shy” and “that weird quiet girl” by my friends and their families.
Here is a perfect example of my nature from my childhood: After four years of being friends with a now close friend and going to her house for art lessons every week for two of those years, I finally had something to say to her dad when he arrived home. (By the way, he loves telling this story.)
It wasn’t much of a conversation. Merely small talk. But I was sitting outside his house on a bench and waiting for my mom to pick me up. He walked up, and as usual, said, “Hannah, how are you doing today?” His eyes always twinkled when he spoke, and that only ever added to my feeling of anxiety because I didn’t want to let anybody down (even in conversation). When he was driving up in his pickup truck, I was thinking really hard about what kind of small talk adults liked to have, and, using all of my nerve and brainpower I finally came up with something.
“I’m doing really good…” he only smiled as he was heading into the house. I felt the anxiety again to not be a disappointment, and I called after him in a hurry, “how are you doing?” It took all of my courage for those two phrases. I’m not even kidding. I’m not going to lie, my heart pounded as I saw him turn around slowly and walk over with his sparkling eyes. I had a strange cocktail of pride that I had managed to please him, and fear that I now had to think up more stuff to say!
(My friend’s father always likes to add what he was thinking at that moment. Let me repeat it in his honor. In a house full of girls where one of them is always talking, someone who doesn’t talk is very intriguing. If Hannah starts talking, everyone needs to be quiet and listen. I know I sure want to hear what she is saying, because it must be important!)
The conversation went on and we covered all the basics… Weather, family, and art class. I felt as though the conversation went on for hours, but in reality, we were only talking for a few minutes. It would have been an extremely pleasant conversation for me if I hadn’t been sweating out of nerves.
Anyway, that was me, growing up. I managed to grow up into a woman who has joined the pro-leagues of small talk, yet still has to force something that should be natural a lot of the time. No one would ever know it by the way I come off, especially at work. Nonetheless, that uncomfortable, quiet, anxious, shy, timid girl is still inside of me sometimes and she’s not very good at putting herself out there in terms of taste, opinions, etc… She likes to keep walls up and blow off questions of “where do you want to eat” and “what’s your favorite book” with a simple, “I don’t care, I’m up for anything,” or a “I don’t really know, I enjoy lots of different stuff.”
I’ve grown comfortable with my preferences, opinions, and tastes here in my home with my husband. It’s been nearly three years since I’ve had to worry about disappointing someone because my taste is different. I’m a natural people-pleaser and let me tell you, being such is no good thing no matter how you want to spin it. “I’m just really compassionate” doesn’t work and neither does, “I really don’t care!” Everybody has preferences. As for me, I’m just too cowardly to share mine most of the time. Some people call it being “spineless.” Some people call it, “enabling (others to be dictators).” I call it “fear.”
Fear of disappointing others. Fear of being shunned for my preferences. Fear of being called out for being wrong! Fear of being “naked in front of the crowd” so to speak.
All of that taken into account adds up to mean that the timidity, the shyness, the people-pleaser nature inside of me is really just fear of being rejected in some form or fashion.
I’ve recently grown close to a friend who, how should I put this, is basically me. Not in all ways, but in a big way. She is the only person I’ve ever come across who understands and shares my extreme introversion. If I don’t want to see people, she knows it and doesn’t judge! She understands that I really need a day sometimes to just recharge from all of the activity, and she shares similar desires. Not only do we share our introversion, but we share many of the same tastes and enjoy a lot of the same hobbies. We have very similar worldviews, and desire the same things for our future. We really are kindred spirits. But one way in which we differ is a big one.
She is not afraid to speak her mind, nor is she a people-pleaser! For that, she is my hero. She just puts herself out there!
Putting myself out there… Now that’s the area where I really need and pray for courage.
Again, let me be brutally honest (look, I’m practicing the courage thing right now), I’ve prayed for the courage to face an hour long social engagement without Daniel as my barrier before…yes, an HOUR of alone conversation with a person made me scared.
I suppose that’s why Saint Joan of Arc means so much me. She put herself out there, and she was different! (She was the leader of an army, for goodness sake!) She had to have such immense courage to even attempt the mission she was given. She had to speak out and many people thought she was crazy. Many people rejected her! Yet onward she pressed, and look what God was able to accomplish through her! I obviously wasn’t there during her time, and so I cannot say for certain, but after reading several accounts of her character, her mission, and some of the things that she’s said, I don’t think that she was without fear. I think she was plenty anxious! I’m sure she was scared time and time again during her experiences. She was known for encouraging her troops to confess their sins, and that showed some real foresight into the fate of the many men around her. Clearly she was thinking of their souls and of the possibility of each of their deaths. To me, that says that she must have had a proper fear of the Lord. Through all of that, she had courage and fortitude to keep going.
It seems silly that the Maid would be my role model and inspiration, because the fears that I face are so much less in comparison! It doesn’t matter though. I will continue to ask for the intercession of Saint Joan and I will continue to pray for courage in the little things that most people can face easily.
After purchasing some items from the bookstore today, I felt bad when some of my coworkers commented negatively on my merchandise. It bothered me all the way home on my thirty minute commute and I found myself thinking that I needed to change and mold myself into an “acceptable” person to their standards. Once I realized what I was thinking, I decided that I’m going to have to live every moment with intention to be who I am and nobody else.
It’s okay to have preferences! They help to make up the person that I am, and I am not anybody else’s definition of me. I am who I am, and I’m the best person for the job. With that, keeping my friend in mind, and Saint Joan at my back, I have some things to say…
I like Mediterranean food, and I really dislike seafood. All I want right now is a Chicken shawarma sandwich from Fadi’s and if my husband calls me in on the way home to ask what I want for dinner, I will tell him so with reckless abandon.
I think my favorite book would probably have to be Les Misérables…
Junk Food Indulgences
I sometimes eat an entire bag of cheese balls when it’s a special date night in with the husband as my choice junk food and even he can’t stand them.
I’m a Nerd
…however, I often look longingly at the fantasy books by Anne McCaffrey with dragons on the cover and one day soon, I will work up the audacity to buy and read one. I play video games sometimes and I can be a HUGE Skyrim nerd. I guess I’m a Halo nerd too, because I played all the games, bought the last one for mine and Daniel’s first anniversary, and read several of the books about the Spartans as they were released a few years ago. I love making costumes and dressing up for parties. When I was in my late teens, I dressed up like a pirate with an old friend and we went out into the woods and did a photo shoot just because. One of the best days of my life, let me tell you!
I’m an old soul
On one of the first occasions getting to know my fellow introverted friend, I attended her dinner and a movie night with crochet needle and ball of yarn in hand (because who can’t crochet when watching a movie?).
And there you go… That’s how one of the most underrated and well-known Saints helped me realize that it was time to stop people-pleasing. Do you struggle with fear or insecurity of this kind? Here’s a handy tip to think about…No one can be a better you than you. It’s impossible, because you are unique, special, and one of a kind. Courage doesn’t mean you aren’t scared. It means that you do whatever you need to do in spite of the fear. I pray that God gives me the courage to do whatever he asks, because, between you and me, I have more fears and anxieties than most. He’s got his work cut out for him. Thanks for reading!
Saint Joan of Arc, pray for us!