Nearly four years ago, in March 2013, Knopf Publishers released Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, an extraordinary book about women’s leadership written by the COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg. As one who reads books on leadership, especially women’s leadership, I was fascinated by Sandberg’s personal anecdotes and strong words of advice. I read the book several times, and much of what she wrote has stayed with me in these last few years and caused me to ponder. But one question she raised has haunted me:
WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU WEREN’T AFRAID?
As a confirmed and life-long rules-keeping, people-pleasing, and no-boundaries observing helper, minister, mom, professor, and friend, my list of fears seems endless. I never want to hurt, offend, cause pain, bring conflict, or exclude, and I have lived in fear of doing all those things. And I have often lived hesitantly, cautiously, and “nicely” in order to keep peace, to maintain order, to make sure everyone is comfortable and secure.
In these last few years, I have tried to “lean in” to Sandberg’s question (I know, but I just had to use “lean in”), and I have begun doing things that are scary for me. I have written and spoken and preached words that are stronger and sharper and less fearful. I am also trying to live into words spoken by my friend, Holly Hollman, general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty: “Do brave things. Once you do one brave thing, you will do others.”
And finally I am learning to embrace these beautiful words from John O’Donohue in his To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings:
May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love,
To postpone my dream no longer
But do at last what I came here for
And waste my heart on fear no more.
What would you do, my friends, if you weren’t afraid? Praying that we all have the courage this day to live in love and fear no more.
Pam Durso is the executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia.