The Daring Exploits of a Recovering Coward

Erik Cooper —  December 11, 2013 — Leave a comment

“I’m a reporter with the Chicago Tribune and hope to interview you for a story.”

Initially, I assumed it was just more Twitter spam, or maybe a friend trying to get a good laugh by activating my hubris. But a quick google search revealed it was no hoax. This lady was definitely a writer for a nationally known newspaper. It was halftime of my daughter’s high school basketball game, so I emailed her back asking how I could help.

She immediately replied:

I’m a lifestyles reporter with the Chicago Tribune and I’m working on a story, pegged to the new year, about taking risks.

I came across your blog, Beyond the Risk, and very much liked that you called yourself a “recovering coward.” I don’t have your back story or much context for that statement, but I am wondering if you would be interested in being interviewed about the ways in which you have confronted your fears and taken new risks.

I smiled, took another handful of popcorn, and thumbed this response on my iPhone:

I’d be happy to chat, but I’m afraid I may not be quite as exciting as you’d hoped. I’m not a skydiver or extreme stuntman in my free time or anything crazy like that. Most of my risk-taking has come in the form of stepping into my true identity, confronting the fear of failure and being misunderstood, as well as all the insecurities innately built-in to being a good father and husband.

The term “recovering coward” emerged about 5 years ago as my family stepped out of all we’d known for over 3 decades and embraced something completely new and terrifying. But today, it’s more about the daily risks of being the man and leader I really am instead of what everyone else expects me to be.

If that would lead you to think I could add anything to your story, please feel free to call. I’d be honored to chat with you. Sometimes the riskiest endeavors are found in the most common of places. At least that’s been true for me.

Strangely enough, I never heard from her again. Hmmm.


But the interaction got me thinking about the title of my blog (which I’ve often considered changing) and the common assumptions about what it means to take a risk in this life. The word naturally conjures up images of scaling mountains, exotic missions, or extreme sports. But I’ve been discovering some of the most terrifying risks in the most unexpected, everyday places. For instance….

I think parenting requires major risk-taking (not the biological part, that’s easy). The part that requires you to face your fears of inadequacy and step sacrificially into the life of your kids. The part that asks you to put what’s best for them ahead of what you might prefer. The part that lays your honesty, your mistakes, and your love completely bare, not knowing if or how it will be reciprocated or if it will even work.

That’s risky.

Truly leading, even at a seemingly normal, everyday job, requires some serious risk. To engage people with both your wisdom and your doubts. To put who you really are on the table, not knowing how it will be received or if you’ll be taken advantage of. To trust people to follow instead of demanding they do.

That’s risky.

Loving your spouse is risky, too. To trust another human being with your most intimate thoughts and feelings. To lean fully into a rich, symbiotic connection with a husband or wife requires exposure to potential hurt, pain, and betrayal.

That’s risky.

And let’s face it, to fully put your faith in Jesus Christ is embracing a risk. To surrender your worth and value to the Law-fulfilling work of Another, rather than the manic, earning efforts you think you control yourself.

Wow, that’s risky.

Listen, there’s no doubt that most of us are ridiculously risk-averse. We dodge. We duck. We’re safe. We need to be challenged.

But I think it’s time we stop boxing the concept of risk into some radical show for the Discovery Channel (or story for the Chicago Tribune). Some of my greatest risks these past few years have been battles waged deep in my own soul. Struggles for perspective, sacrifice, identity, love, and surrender. In many ways, these adventures have taken more courage than I’ve ever needed before.

Sometimes the riskiest endeavors are found in the most common of places. Where are you looking?

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