About cowardice

By Paulo Coelho

Anthony Williams says that the world seems threatening to cowards. They seek the false security of a life void of great challenges, and arm themselves heavily in order to defend that which they think they possess. Cowards are victims of their own egos, and in the end erect the bars of their own prisons.

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  1. wanbliska says:

    That's true. At the end the coward is lost in his labyrinth of fears. Because he spent his life, keeping material things closer to him, not sharing.
    Because he fears to go forward, thinking he could lose his life, he would lose still and all at the end. Because he only listens to himself: so to ego, ignorant of god's attribute he has in himself. Blind to it, though hell becomes really conspicious.

  2. Marie-Christine says:

    and you can overcome it.

  3. Marie-Christine says:

    I dont know who wrote that:
    “Fear is what we have been missing in love.”>

  4. Savita Vega says:

    I was just thinking of how to define the word “coward” – in my mind, someone who fears the unknown, and so, fails to reach out for their heart’s desire – when I found this post in your archives. I was looking for something totally different, when the title “about cowardice” happened to catch my eye.

    From the definition you gave, I copied the following and pasted it into my letter (giving proper credit of course): “The world seems threatening to cowards. They seek the false security of a life void of great challenges….and in the end erect the bars of their own prisons.” The words fit perfectly. They imbued precisely the seed of truth that I was attempting to convey. But, in the process of cutting and pasting the quote, something else happened that I did not expect. I caught a glimpse of my own face, as if reflected in a mirror: “Coward!” shouted the reflection that shouted back at me from the words printed on the page.

    You see – that definition of “coward” fits perfectly a certain aspect of my life, a certain internal conflict that never has been resolved. For many years I have dreamed of leaving my country (the U.S.) and going to live elsewhere in the world, even eventually giving up my citizenship if necessary and taking on the nationality of a new home. Mexico, Brasil, Europe (Italy, England, elsewhere in Europe) – all of these were possibilities on my list at different points. When I was in my early 20’s I even contemplated emigrating to Australia, which I would not do now, but at the time seemed incredibly alluring.

    I lived for a year in Mexico, and could have tried to stay, I suppose. In Italy, as well, I lived and worked for a year, and probably – had I been determined enough – could have found some way to extend that stay indefinitely. I was once married to a Brazilian; I could have moved to Brasil. But, I just kept waiting to make that move, that decisive break with my homeland, thinking that someday the perfect situation would present itself – that I would find the perfect place and the perfect circumstances to guarantee an easy and smooth transition. Well, of course, that never occurred. Then something else happened – I had my daughter.

    I don’t know what it is about parenthood, but, especially with women, I really think some chemical change occurs in the brain which renders us much more cautious and careful, seeing potential danger around every corner after we have children. Parenthood, in this sense, is almost like some sort of debilitating and irreversible disease: one day your a normal person, the next day (or should I say, nine months later) you are certain that the Grim Reaper, in some form, is waiting just around the next bend. You’re suddenly terrified to attempt the things you used to do without a second thought.

    Example: I used to cycle. And I don’t mean just a little Sunday ride now and then. I cycled for many years, mountain biking, and when I lived in Italy, even competed a bit. At the peak of my training, I was averaging 300 miles per week in the saddle. Basically all I did was cycle, eat like crazy, and slept. Among many other more minor accidents, I once, in Mexico, came around a bend in the road, hit a herd of goats, and slid off the side of a mountain, puncturing a hole in my kneecap. Twice, I was hit by automobiles. Once, shattering my left wrist, which had to be rebuilt from other bits of metal and bone. The second time, breaking my right wrist, and fracturing three ribs. None of this fazed me in the slightest bit – I still continued to ride. I even rode one handed, with my other arm in a cast. When I got pregnant, I slowed down just a bit, took corners a bit more carefully, but that was all. I continued to ride, up until I was seven months pregnant, until my belly, sticking out like a balloon, started to get in my way and hamper my ability to bend forward and reach the handlebars properly.

    I couldn’t wait till my daughter was born, so that I could get back to the love of my life – cycling. So, as soon as she was a few weeks old and the mid-wife gave me medical clearance to begin cycling again, I left my daughter with the nanny, got my bike out of the closet and hit the road. But, as soon as my backside hit the saddle, I realized that something was different, very different. I was terrified!!! I could not get the thought out of my mind, “What if I get hit by a car…? What if I die…? Who will take care of my daughter?” Well, of course, the answer is God, the Divine, the Universe would take care of my daughter. Who takes care of the lilies of the field and all that, I reminded myself. But that sort of logic somehow fell short. It suddenly had no meaning for me. It just didn’t work. I was terrified of dying, and that was that.

    A similar change occurred in my thinking in terms of that all-too-long-awaited move to another country. Suddenly, though the allure was still there – especially at the thought of Europe, where the quality of life excels by a thousand times that which we know in the U.S. – I could see nothing but hardship and trial and potential misery awaiting us at the end of our journey. And it’s really the thought of the unknown that does it: I think, “How will I learn a new language at my age (unless we move to Italy or England)? How will I find a good school for my daughter? Who (again, especially in Europe, where age discrimination seems so prevalent) would hire me at my age? Where would I find a job – doing what? And medical care? What if my daughter got sick? Where would I find a doctor if we aren’t EU citizens? And where will we live – will I find a place that I can afford?” And on and on…. These are things that I never would have even considered before becoming a parent. I would have just gone – just bought my plane ticket and let the rest take care of itself, or least not worried about it in advance, just dealt with the challenges as they arose. Considering it in the way that I do now – as though I have to have all the answers to all the questions, have all the solutions before I set out – it truly is an overwhelming undertaking. Even though, almost more than anything else in the world, I want to give both my daughter and myself a better quality of life than we will ever know here, the aspiration of moving to a new country, seems nearly impossible.

    Which brings me back to that same quote: “The world seems threatening to cowards. They seek the false security of a life void of great challenges….and in the end erect the bars of their own prisons.” Here I have a large house – free of charge. Here I have twenty-five acres of wooded land – paid for. Here, in this tiny village nearby, the pace of life is slow, expectations of achievement (especially for women) are few. My family’s one expectation of me, their one hope for me – not that I write the book I have dreamed of writing, not even that find a great career in teaching or some other profession, but just that I mary, in my aunt’s words, “find a good man.”

    In other words, life here is safe, and simple, and easy, predominantly free of any externally imposed challenges. Here is not the thrill and the terror of learning a new language. Here is not the excitement and uncertainty of exploring an unknown city. Here is not the exaltation and risk of creating a life anew, from scratch. So, I see that in seeking the false security of a life void of great challenges, I have, in the end, erected the bars of my own prison, and possibly also my daughter’s. Except that this is not the end of the story – not yet!

    Thank you so much, Paulo, for this blog and your words which so often bring wisdom to light!


  5. Rebecca says:

    It is not that we are afraid that makes us cowards it is what we do with the fear when we have it. Alberto Villoldo tells us that the ego fears only one thing – anihilation, and because of that fear we create stories about ourselves and collect props to back them up. That way we mask the fear of anihilation. But the stories we tell when we take this route are stuck in the dynamic of victim/perpetrator/rescuer. We can play all or any of these roles while we are in this dynamic.

    It is not the sign of a coward to feel fear unless we keep telling the same stories over and over again with it, like stuck records. Instead we can use the fear to find another way, face up to anihilation and realise that we are far more than our egos and that, whilst the ego personality may die, we are infinite beings and death is merely another form of birth. We may use our fear to imprison ourselves but we all hold the key to set ourselves free.

    Love and blessings


  6. Agnieszka says:

    Thank you Tania,

  7. Clover says:

    ps. i have been there before.

  8. Clover says:

    u r not a coward honey, u r a kid fighting demonds. it will make u a brave and strong man, don’t worry.

    hugs from the sun.

  9. Tania says:

    Beautiful Agnieszka – it reminds of a movie that was called I think accidental hero -Dustin Hoffman was in it .
    I agree though -at times when we have been cowardly -it serves as learning process to help us to change in the next moment we feel this -Let each new experience teach us that the power and growth lies with in us .Blessings Tania

  10. Agnieszka says:

    “The real hero is always a hero by mistake; he dreams of being an honest coward like everybody else.”
    Umberto Eco

    This quote is so moving for me.
    In life doesn’t matter who you are a hero or a coward, what matters are your intentions, your believes, your values.
    There are moments in life when it is better to be a coward by choice, and moments when you should be a brave man. Doing things based on cruel bravery only leads to pain and tragedy.
    Only when you look into your own heart, when you have God inside, only then you should make a move. We can only pray that God will give us time and clear mind to not confuse right with wrong.


  11. wanbliska says:

    dear Sibila,

    I agree with you. Judgment is fighting the light, because energy that follows from is a down one. So heart does not hear the message, but closes itself.
    Nobody’s perfect, but anyway, I can’t say that “the world seems threatening to cowards”, and only to them.
    The judgment is categorical: It let no one window opened, when it can’t reach nor overcome Justice.


  12. Sibila Maria India says:

    I keep thinking about this question.

    For me it´s very important to learn to be able to say the truth without being blaming or judgemental – which is an art. It´s so very easy to be so sure of one´s point of view as the truth that it´s extremely easy to criticise or pass judgements.
    But however right or valid a point of view is, if it´s put forward with self-righteousness that puts others down, then it becomes criticism and judgement.
    What happens then is that however bright or right the point of view is, it´s narrowed by the criticism or judgement. It becomes blind to the full picture. The full picture also includes the motivations behind whatever is going on.
    Judgement and criticism stop the flow of energy, Maybe the point of view is right or valid – but if it stops the flow of energy, puts someone down and creates fear – than I think it´s a good idea to look at my own motives if I´m the one judging or criticising…

    I´ve judged and critized a ton myself, I´ve grown up in a deeply criticising and judgemental home and have had much to learn thru it.

    The truth can be very painfull to face – but it can set us free.
    In order to be able to do that, it has in my eyes to be put forward without judgement or criticism. Otherwise it is just another powergame from the fearfull part of us.

  13. Pepper says:

    I think it takes bravery to admit your fears. Maybe recognizing how cowardly we can be lets us know how brave we are.

  14. wanbliska says:

    Dear Sibila,

    I thought the same as you, as to the judgemental feeling. The limit isvery thin between judgment and recognition.
    If we take the idea, that people judges what they are, so maybe Mr Williams consider himself as a coward. I don’t know. But Lao tzu wrote:

    “He who speaks don’t know
    He who knows don’t speak”.

    So it is by writing that we could then be silent upon a subject. Getting detached to it.

    We are all coward in a way, but I’m probably more than others.
    I put it on my knees now, and look at it deeply into its eyes.
    Am I going to lather my spirit, because of inaction? I know something’s wrong.

    But in an other hand, I don’t consider myself as a coward. I maybe have to live that way. I have to meditate upon myself, not to reproduce the same errors. But something is missing yet. I’m maybe too exclusive.


  15. wanbliska says:

    That’s true. At the end the coward is lost in his labyrinth of fears. Because he spent his life, keeping material things closer to him, not sharing.
    Because he fears to go forward, thinking he could lose his life, he would lose still and all at the end. Because he only listens to himself: so to ego, ignorant of god’s attribute he has in himself. Blind to it, though hell becomes really conspicious.

  16. Sibila Maria India says:

    Dear Paulo

    I don´t know in which context Anthony Robbins said so. As far as I know he is a gifted coach. These words seem to me quite judgemental and I don´t think anyone grows, heals or learns anything by being judged.

    I see this world as a school. We come here with varying experience and consciousness to learn, grow, love, unfold. I can think quite easily of times in my life when I was a big coward myself. I´m really sorry I was and I truly regret those situations. And to be able to dare something else next time life presents me with a situation of the same kind when I was a coward before, I need not to judge my self as a coward. But to take a strate look at it and say: Ok, what scared the hell out of me last time? How can I meet this now? What do I need? Hopefully then, I can learn to dare some more and not be corwardy next time. As I see it, courage grows inside by being used..

  17. Serena says:

    Not sure how or why…. But right now i am too fearful to write…