To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out is to risk involvement,
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.
To place your ideas and
dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return,
To live is to risk dying,
To hope is to risk despair,
To try is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken because
the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The person who risks nothing, does nothing,
has nothing, is nothing.
— William Arthur Ward (1921-1994)
This well-known poem offers such a clear perspective on the value and necessity of risk in life. We are afraid of the collision of life and failure, and so we avoid it directly, allowing it to seep out in cracks in unseen or unintentional ways. Risk brings about all that we believe failure insinuates. It takes courage to reckon with fear of rejection, or loneliness, or any number of things far worse than putting our foot in out mouth. It takes courage because we want the other person to love us and think well of us, and how could they love an angry, wounded, or imperfect person.
Let’s be honest here … we aren’t all fully self-actualizing, mature people whose image belongs in fashion and sports magazines. Or in a brainy think-tank. We’re imperfect. We’re learning. We’re trying to be the best people we can be. Our splotchy, creaking bodies, our tangled and misdirected emotions, our foibles and genuine faults aren’t only in our heads.
It takes courage to put one’s flawed self forward. It does take courage to be able to say: Here I am. This is me. It takes courage whether you’re introducing yourself to someone for the first time, or talking with your partner of thirty years. This life stuff isn’t for the faint of heart if you are willing to risk. Now I like being safe just as much as the next person. There is a place for safety. But there is also a place for risk. AND a place for failure that is acceptable as any other condition. Failing doesn’t make you unlovable. It makes you human.