Since the dawn of time, the telling of grand stories has been a principal element of mankind. Many great themes have emerged, to inspire, to give warning, to promote values, to light and guide.
One of the strongest of those is that of Overcoming Obstacles, of rising triumphant over adversity–– conquering demons and rising from the ashes.
But–– but sometimes, "Overcoming Obstacles" just isn't possible. No matter the effort, no matter the struggle, no matter the strife, the Romantic notion is just unattainable, the enemy cannot be vanquished.
The courage, the glory, the honor is not in the Overcoming––– but in the courage to enter the fray and face the fight with all you are worth anyways.
At the Mens' Leadership Camp in Dallas over the weekend, I was introduced to Josh Spencer, a Beeachbody coach–– a PHENOMENAL Beachbody coach–– who rose in leadership & impact to be awarded Coach of the Year in years past–– a prestigious title not for the title itself but for the implication relayed at how many lives he, and the team which he heads, have impacted, have changed.
Josh had not planned to be a speaker at the training–– or at the very least, he had not planned to give the talk that he found he must. Instead of masculine rah-rah, It was very personal, a testimony of strength, of humility, of strife, of mission.
Josh is ripped. Head to toe, the dude's physique just friggin rocks. He's worked hard to achieve it, and to help others on that path, and he's just incredibly smart. But five months ago, he began to experience something strange. His brain hurt. Disconcertingly, he began to notice his speech was beginning slur. And despite bravado, the symptoms became so pronounced, he owned up to that he was not OK. Visiting the doctor and describing his symptoms, the doctor said it was nothing, just subjective, it'll go away. Doctor after doctor, he sought answers, because the symptoms were not going away, instead deepening. Til he saw one doctor who immediately upon hearing the symptoms said, "Oh, right; you have Lyme disease. We can and will run the tests, but I'm telling you that's what it is." It turned out to be correct.
There is no cure, at present. There is only living with the disease. Josh could have succumbed to self-pity, to railing against "WHY ME?!" but he didn't. He studied. He dug deeper into the disease than even many doctors. He faced the fight, knowing it was one that could not be vanquished.
He could only hold the line.
His talk was not one wanting pity, wanting glory for suffering: it was a talk compelling that when we face the impossible, you strap on your helmet, grab your spear, and charge into battle, anyways.
Nelson Mandela famously said, "I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."
Sometimes, you cannot Overcome Obstacles. Sometimes, the epic, critical character-defining battle is entering the fight anyways. Facing the foe, anyways. Holding the line, hold the door shut against the unbeatable foe, for all you're worth, anyways.
That may indeed be the principle of valor made flesh.