Young Adult

There is a YouTube channel I love called Yes Theory. Their idea is that real life happens outside your comfort zone, and by seeking discomfort and saying yes to new experiences you can make deep connections, engage with the world and live fully alive.

They have a few repeated mottoes that always inspire me: “Seek discomfort,” “Say yes” and “Love over fear.” They are not religious at all and there is mature content in some of their videos, so proceed with caution. They also pursue this lifestyle to a more extreme degree than would be prudent for most people. That said, I find their videos beautiful and inspiring, and they give a new dimension to my understanding of courage and what it means to say yes to God in my life. In one of their videos, they set out to convince an Uber driver to go skydiving with them on the spot. Many people say no, then finally one of their drivers finally says a nervous yes. She has a beautiful time skydiving and when they finish by telling her, “thank you for saying yes,” it is a poignant and tangible reminder that saying yes to what God is asking in my life, even when I’m terrified, makes space for epic and beautiful adventures. They inspire me to be brave.

Courage is the spine by which we are able to practice all other virtues when they are difficult or frightening. It is the virtue by which we are able to continue to engage with and love our fellow children of God when we are increasingly concerned about the state of the world. But, the thing is, all of creation belongs to God, and we don’t have to be afraid to engage with it.

Pope Benedict XVI, when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, said: “To have Christian hope means to know about evil and yet to go to meet the future with confidence. The core of faith rests upon accepting being loved by God, and therefore to believe is to say Yes, not only to him, but to creation, to creatures, above all, to men, to try to see the image of God in each person and thereby to become a lover. That’s not easy, but the basic Yes, the conviction that God has created men, that he stands behind them, that they aren’t simply negative, gives love a reference point that enables it to ground hope on the basis of faith.”

When we are seeking to grow in any virtue, but especially in courage, it is important to make note of a few things. First, every virtue is the middle point between two extremes, both of which are vices. In the case of courage, the two opposing vices are cowardice and rashness; courage is the virtuous middle point between them. Often, there is one of the two vices that is more obvious to us, and the other is more hidden. We might have even grown up thinking that cowardice is on the other end of the spectrum from courage. It is important to realize that rashness is also a vice and also to realize the further nuance that finding the middle ground between the two extremes will look at least a little different from one person to the next. For example, the people who make videos for Yes Theory are well positioned to take on adventures (like racing each other to hitchhike across a country), which might be rash for the average person, but for them are courageous. Similarly, a person who is timid by personality would be exercising the virtue of courage in ways that might look cowardly to a person who is naturally bold.

All of these aspects are important to consider as we seek out a life of virtue in general and in particular as we wonder what it looks like to live a life in which we choose love over fear. It is valid and important to consider personal safety and specific temptations in choosing where to engage and where to withdraw. Again, rashness is also a vice.

But once those things are attended to, we can approach the world, and especially people, with confidence as all belonging to God. In every person we encounter, we will find brokenness and sin, some in more severe forms than others. But in every person we encounter, we will also find the image and likeness of God and the possibility of eternal glory. There will be people who we have to force ourselves to choose to love every step of the way. There will be people who will confuse us about how it’s even possible to love someone who is so deeply misguided and troubled. And there will be people for whom we have deep and natural affection who carry deep suffering or even a great weight of sin. In every encounter, we can always choose to bring them to the foot of the cross and to ask Christ to help us to see that person as he sees them. Whatever the weight we carry on their behalf, it’s only a fragment of the immensity of his love and care for them.

Not all of it will be dark. The more that we, as Pope Benedict says, “try to see the image of God in each person and thereby to become a lover,” the more we will be able to also see the unique beauty of every soul and to rejoice in the simple fact of them being who they are.

That’s another beautiful thing about Yes Theory. They are always befriending strangers and always surprised by the wonderful people they meet. Not everyone says yes; in fact, a lot of people say no, but their videos are always marked by the lovely and genuine connections they make with strangers, just because they bothered to reach out and ask.

It is a part of the human experience to feel fear — for some people, like me, to feel afraid a lot. But it is part of the Christian life to not let that fear dictate how we live our lives. Rather, we seek to follow the example of our Risen Lord and choose to act based on our love instead of our fear.