Life Reflections

Twenty Seconds of Courage

How long is twenty seconds? In a conversation, a twenty second pause is ridiculously long, palm-sweating silence. When you’re counting down to a deadline, twenty seconds run away from you faster than a man hustling a mistress out the back door when his wife returns (sorry, I think I stole this reference from an obscure line in Suits).

My roommate and I watched We Bought a Zoo last night, and it was better than I expected. Nothing shockingly original or profound, but it was a sweet story. While most of it wasn’t terribly memorable, one line in particular caught my attention and flipped a switch in my head.

“Sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” – Benjamin Mee

I bet we can all think of those moments—those times we mustered up that courage and did something outrageous. Or profoundly stupid. Those stories that still make us turn as red as a plum if they happened less than two years ago, but are the best stories we have to retell ten years down the road. And we can all think of the other moments—when we let the twenty seconds slip away, replacing them with a haunting what if that hangs over our heads.

Those are the big things. But it also got me to thinking: sometimes, it takes an insane amount of courage to do something small too. Because I don’t think anyone lives in a perpetual state of bravery. We’re all cowards sometimes. Or most the time. So I thought I’d come up with a brief list of things I—and you—could do with twenty seconds of courage. They’re not all big things, and something great may not always come of it, but I think they’re worthwhile.

  1. Make someone new feel welcome. Whether it’s at church or a party, there are always these huddles of people that stick together. Step outside your comfort zone and talk to someone new, or just someone who might be left out. Lay aside convenience and comfort. You might turn someone’s day around. You might make a lifelong friend.
  1. Hang out with someone very different from you. Maybe it’s background, beliefs, age, personality—someone you typically wouldn’t be friends with. Take the initiative and ask them to lunch or coffee. If they ask you, say yes. Learn something, and give them something to think about too.
  1. Share the Gospel with someone. You can go cold turkey, or you can finally open up with the friend you’ve never told. You probably can’t get it all in in twenty seconds, but it’s enough of a start that it would be more awkward to run away than just finish after that.
  1. Tell someone how much he or she means to you. You don’t have to wait until you’re writing Christmas cards, or until their birthday rolls around. Sometimes I think we do that because it feels safer. You and I are not promised tomorrow or our next breath. So go knock on their door or pick up the phone now. Or on October 12. Or on the most random date you can think of.
  1. Show genuine kindness to someone who hurt you. I guess I subconsciously ordered these by how close someone is to you—and it’s those who are closest who can hurt you the most. So swallow the perfect insult that’s poised on your tongue. Being nasty is easy, but you will regret cruelty. You won’t regret being too kind.

These aren’t things that will make headlines. They’re more in the vein of storing up treasures in heaven than here on earth. I realized all of the five points contain the word “someone.” Doing any of these things makes you more vulnerable for the benefit of someone else. Because courage and selflessness are two sides of the same coin: it is turning away from self and focusing on others.

How long is twenty seconds? Long enough to do something brave.

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