The Temptation of Timidity

March 1, 2015

richard-feynman-laughing

It is so tempting to be timid. Most of us are so unable to control our desires that we give in to this temptation continuously. It becomes the bedrock of who we are. And so we think, “I am above temptation. I am brave enough to set a course for my life and stay with it. I sacrifice. I deserve the future I see for myself.”

But this is timidity. We cannot see the future. We create the future in each present moment. And each present moment is filled with difficult decisions. To only be timid and to only act without caution are equally dangerous to creating a life of happiness and well being. We must seek balance between these two modes of being.  Richard Feynman, pictured above, is a hero of mine who taught me through his actions and words that life moves and we can flow with it only if we sometimes leap over the obstacles in the stream.

To create the life we want, we must let go of the idea that we can see where we are going. The scary truth is we are all blind. In each moment we take a step, sometimes with faith and sometimes with an abundance of fear and hesitation. We step forward. This is what it is to be human. Even to not take a step forward is to take an active role in creating your future.

The path for all of us is to realize these are the two poles of actions we can take – timidity and something closer to a cougar pouncing on it’s prey, with prey being opportunities for change and growth. This cougar image is what I always envision as the opposite of being timid. We must act from a place of balance between these two states. We must strive to be skillful in knowing when to be cautious when we to take a pounce – a leap of faith. Either way, we can’t see ahead of us. Either way, the future will bring change.

Looking back on our life, we don’t want to see that we gave into the temptation of being timid in all moments. We must be sure we savor the moments of grace, climb the moments of obstacles to overcome, and pounce on the moments that bring us joy. We must let go of the idea we are going anywhere, and that being timid is a path. Being timid is just a way to lose our heart and soul in the moments when we are being called to be brave.

Life moves quickly. There is a heap of research documenting that the older we get, the more quickly time seems to pass. Those on their deathbeds report their biggest regrets are what they did NOT do, not what they did do. I am not saying to never be cautious. But I am saying sometimes to be cautious is to be timid, and a life build upon the temptation to be timid is a life that will take the form it will take. It will be a life that goes out without a whimper or a bang. It was just be a life that was lived quietly until it was time to say goodnight for good.

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