An & Ria’s #First Flight: The difference between courage and fearlessness

I love, love, love corporate advertising that reveals something beautiful about us as people. When I watch the kind of commercial that Vodafone created below, I feel like it’s a fair trade–my time and attention for their insight. If they did business in Idaho I’d even consider switching carriers if their product was as decent as their advertising.

This little ten-minute video follows two elderly Dutch women as they prepare for and then take their first flight. It’s delightful on way too many levels to list them all here, so I recommend you just watch it and settle into your own take on it…prepare to smile!

But one of the things that caught my attention was the great example it offers on the difference between courage and fearlessness. Here. See what you think.

When I was younger I always assumed courageous and fearless were just two words for the same thing. That essentially they both described the act of being brave. But as life went on and events required me to face some major, crippling fears of my own I gradually came to understand that there’s a huge…HUGE…difference.

Fearlessness is essentially an absence of fear, no courage is required if a person isn’t afraid to begin with. Ria was fearless, which is a lot of what made her so delightful to watch (not to mention that grin and contagious laugh.) For her, the whole thing was a grand and fantastic adventure, low on challenge, high on learning and fun. I think most of us long to be like Ria.

Courage, on the other hand, is more of a rare flower that can only blossom in the light of fear. Otherwise, it stays dormant…unnecessary and unavailable.

For that matter, even when fear is present courage can remain dormant anyway. The instinct can be so overpowering to play it safe and it can be so much easier to just stay home, even if one risks eventually falling into paralysis that way. Courage seems a little mysterious and ephemeral actually, as though it requires a remarkable confluence of events to finally spark it, but what that spark will be there’s no way to know until it actually happens.

I thought An was the more courageous of the two, because even though she was deeply afraid of flying she still summoned the strength to climb on that plane in spite of it.  She seemed to be the more vulnerable of the two with the greater challenge to overcome, but maybe that’s why, once they were up in the air, I found her quiet wonder as she gazed out the window to be the most moving. Certainly, with the phobias I’ve endured, I understood why she wept when she spoke of the beauty of it all later.

Secretly, I think I long even more for An’s courage than Ria’s fearlessness, although to be honest I think everyone probably has a little of both lurking inside them.  I suppose my real job is to just go ahead and delight in any periods of fearlessness I experience and then be really, deeply grateful if I’m frozen and that mysterious spark of courage ignites to help get me moving again.

copyright Dia Osborn 2014

 

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