Risk Being Laughed At

Last week, in a room full of high schoolers, I watched a boy have a go at something the others had refused. He almost got it right; but not quite. Some scoffed and others watched silently. Crestfallen, the boy walked back to his seat. I blurted out an old proverb: ‘The boy who will never risk being laughed at will never be a man!’ Someone asked me to repeat the proverb, which I did, and without any further comment we all moved on to the next thing.

A few days later, one of those boy-to-man moments happened in another town and another classroom. I said the same proverb; and once again someone asked me to repeat it: not the same person by the way 😏Such proverbs go back a long way. Another like it, from Eleanor Roosevelt, says, ‘Whatever you’re afraid to do, do it!’ Not to mention the well-known, ‘Fortune favours the bold’.

Such proverbs invite us to walk towards our fears, to respond rather than react. It’s as if what’s being argued about here is life itself; the suggestion being that life is not what happens to you but your response to what happens to you. In the movie Strictly Ballroom, someone says, ‘A life lived in fear is a life half-lived.’ As much as we responsible adults talk of security, good health and survival, it would appear that the blood of the gods courses in our veins. Something deep inside us calls ‘survival’ out for the cheat that it is and demands that we face our fears and expect to find great joy through great trouble.