Struggle Sunday: To Boldly Go

My “one word” for 2012 is courageous.

I picked such a word because of my struggle with boldness. And since courageousness is basically the antithesis of such a struggle, it just seemed like a fun combo deal. Like Happy Meals.

When it comes to boldness, my life can effectively be split into two halves. I was a total coward pre-2004. As for my life post-2004…well, I’m working on it.

Pre-2004: To Boldly…No

I’m not the biggest fan of high school. In Struggle Sundays past, I’ve written about fear and shame — toxic roots planted in high school, roots I’m still weeding all these years later. I desperately sought attention and yet took solace in the shadows.

A successful day in high school was scoring the top grade and surviving criticism of my acne or my quietness or my awkwardness and racing home to refuel for yet another day of the same old survival mode.

Yeah. I’d rather never revisit my high school years.

I often retreated and took minimal risks until 2004 — my senior year of high school. Eventually I guess I’d just had enough, because when I hit my final year of high school, my fearful shameful introverted self finally decided to be a little more, well, courageous.

One Word 365 for 2012: Courageous

Post-2004: To Boldly Go

Are you ready for this insane list of risks I took my senior year?

  • I attended the homecoming football game. A basketball game too.
  • I joined my classmates on our senior trip to New York City.
  • I suited up at my school’s awards banquet. That’s Christian school code for “going to prom,” minus the pregnancy-inducing act of dancing.

Maybe these “risks” seem silly to you. Perhaps you scoff, But those are all so…simple!

Yeah, probably for you. Probably for most. I know I’m messed up.

When I hit my senior year, I committed to a bold mindset of stepping beyond my comfort zone. Of doing things I’d never get another chance to experience beyond those hallowed high school halls. I wanted to end my fearful shameful high school career on some level of positive remembrance.

I haven’t opened my senior yearbook since I graduated, but I still remember classmates signing it with positive comments about my “stepping out” and “breaking out of my shell.” That makes me smile; I’m so glad I did.

Post-2011: To Boldly Keep Going

Before my YouthWorks summer started, my area director asked her staff members to write down a word on an index card. A word she could pray over us throughout the summer.

My word was boldness. I wanted to experience a bold summer. And while I cried tears of desperation on a near weekly basis, I think I accomplished said boldness.

  • I spoke on a stage before nightly gatherings of youth.
  • I connected with ministry contacts twice and thrice my age.
  • I opened up the deep dark parts of my soul to fellow staff, people I’d only known for several weeks, sharing with them what I’d only told a half-dozen others in 24 years.

Now contrast that list with my list from high school, and even I’ll admit it’s significantly more significant. As the years progress beyond high school, I’m learning the importance of living with a bold mindset. The risks may intensify, but the subsequent payoff increases too.

Even though I’ve committed to a courageous mindset for 2012, I can already recount numerous instances in which I recoiled and was not very courageous.

  • I didn’t reach out to someone. And then another someone.
  • I put something else above Jesus.
  • I worried worry about my future.

We’re only 15 days into a 366-day year, and I’m not exactly batting 1.000 in the courageous department. Not even sure I’m cracking the Mendoza Line. But if you’re not into baseball metaphors, I feel as sorry for you as I do a Cubs fan.

It’s reassuring to look back on 2004 and 2011 and remember the rewards reaped in a risk-taking reality. I’m in the post-2004 and post-2011 phases, but I still need to commit to boldness on a daily basis.

I’ve lived life in the shadows for far too long already. I want to feel the sunshine, even if it means having to weather some storms along the way.

How about you guys? Does taking risks come naturally to you? How do you commit to a bold mentality?

  • Karl

    I think you became so bold in your senior year because that was my first year of high school as a freshman. I must have had quite an influence on you! And who would criticize or make fun of you in high school? Name some names; be daring, be bold!

    • TMZ

      Karl, your impact on my life stretches beyond the chasms of humanity.

      As for naming names…I’m saving that for my tell-all memoir, coming soon to a Borders near you.

  • MLYaksh

    I join in your feelings toward high school. I wouldn’t go back, to people’s surprise. See, I was the kid everyone knew and loved. Not “popular”, but well liked by all in my small fine arts school. I was nicknamed Mr. Perfect (I have my senior hoodie for proof) by teachers, parents, and friends.

    I was faking. Wasn’t saved, clean, pure, perfect, or anything. I acted the part because I could hide in it. I could hide from my problems and fears. I could hide from my self hatred. I could hide from the world.

    The world found me eventually, but thankfully so did Jesus. However, I was still afraid and hid in my image. College was the same story as high school except my image started cracking. The millions of issues I had could not be contained any longer.

    But wouldn’t you know it- I found a way to hide in being open. It’s true. I don’t know how really, but I was open while still perfect. Long story semi-short, I am doing what I can to be bold. Sometimes I do great, sometimes not. Like I said about the one word, I am surrendering like never before- and I’m discovering that it takes courage. At times, I am putting myself out there for anyone to see. And it doesn’t always end well. But, I keep trying.

    I will say- as an introvert, you seem to have grown very bold since 2004. And that’s awesome- don’t lose sight of that. You can always grow more, but be confident in what God has already done in your life. And heck- even extroverts struggle with boldness. It just looks a little different.

    • TMZ

      Thanks for that encouragement. Was in the car today thinking about my growth since ’04. It’s encouraging and intimidating all at once. Much love with your own “one word” mission of surrender this year. All the best man.

  • Kelsea Pribila

    This is quite a testimony for stepping out in faith! It all starts with small steps. Risk-taking does not come natrually to me, and boldness was something I always struggled with. But God doesn’t let us stay inside of our comfort zones for too long. For myself, I found God calling me to step out and follow Him. And I found if God calls then He will provide! 
    And I love the One Word resolution! I found out about it last year and thought it was awesome!

    • TMZ

      I wish I’d found out about “one word” sooner. Really helps put this entire year into focus better. God is indeed faithful through those stepping out moments. Thanks for your comment!

  • I believe it was John Wayne who said something along the lines of, “Courage is being scared out of your mind, but saddling up anyway.” 

    I appreciate that because while I strive to be bold and courageous, I am often terrified when faced with the uncertainties of life. I figure as long as I can keep moving forward; as long as I keep getting on that horse– any horse, then at least all opportunity will not pass me by as I succumbed to fear. 

    I think that, secretly, high-school was horrible for everyone– even the prom queens and quarterbacks. I can say that because my mom and dad were those things respectively, and their lives are in no way inherently better because of it. They came away with just as many hang-ups as I did. I wouldn’t trade my high-school experience for anything though, it was massively influential in determining who I would be in college, and college helped determine who I would be today.  

    It’s funny to think that in five more years I’ll be looking back, and I will see how this awkward and bizarre phase of life has influenced who I will be then. I think The Joker said it best, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you weirder.” I’m just full of fun quotes tonight. 

    But seriously, be bold, be ridiculous, take risks, make mistakes, but above all, be who it is you want to be. It’s always the weird ones that are really worth knowing. Who wants to be the same as everyone else, anyway?

    If you’re anything like me, you’re biggest fear is that you will somehow ruin your life, whatever that means. Here’s the thing, I’ve watched as a lot of people made the safe choices– safe choices in schools, relationships, careers, etc. These days a lot of those folks are wishing they could go back to school, are hating every moment of their office drone work-lives, and their marriages are dissolving. 

    I try to remind myself that maybe, just maybe, making the safe choices is actually what ruins your life. Perhaps it’s the bold and courageous who, even in failure, find the most satisfaction in life. 

    If I’ve only got one life to live, then I sure as heck don’t want to spend it playing it safe. I don’t want to live to the ripe old age of 100 only to look back and think, “I never really took a chance.” I’ll leave you with one more quote, this one by Ryan Adams, “Well, everybody wants to go forever, but I just want to burn up hard and bright.” 

    Sorry for such a lengthy comment, but your post really got me thinking. This is good stuff, and though I don’t really know you Mr. TMZ, I sense that we’ve shared some similar experiences in life. I hope that you continue to go forth in boldness; that you’ll be filled with courage in 2012. That even in those moments that you don’t find courage, you’ll recognize its absence. I’m afraid I’ve grown far too complacent in many areas of my life, and have lacked the sight to even recognize it. 

    • TMZ

      Comment of the year? Or at least comment of the year with the best quotes. I particularly enjoy that Joker one.

      I think you’re right about that fear of “ruining my life” when I’ve really got nothing to lose most of the time. It helps to put my currently 24-year-old life into the perspective of a potentially 100-year-old one. I’m glad my post got you thinking Mr. Martin. Thanks so much for these encouraging words. May 2012 be a courageous year for you as well.

  • Elena

    You’re not so alone in sharing these courageous thoughts, Tom. Many of us hear and feel the heartbeat of life more deeply than others — that’s a gift to be treasured, and one that pours forth so beautifully in your writing.

    • TMZ

      Love that line…”the heartbeat of life.” As always, appreciate your words!