Monday, February 28, 2011

A Word About Risk

I take risks. Always have. I can’t decide if it is part of my genetic wiring or if somewhere along the way I learned really living occurs every moment I’m willing to abandon fear.

Stand at the corner of What do I have to lose? and Is it worth it in the long run? and you’ve set foot at the intersection where my sense of risk-taking and logical thought meet.

Sometimes my risks are calculated. Sometimes they aren’t. I try hard not to operate on feelings alone. Feelings can’t be trusted. However, there’s a golden gut (aka the Holy Spirit) that I choose not to ignore. I pay attention when the golden gut signals to go this way or that.

I also think I’m primed to take risks because I’ve always had a sure sense of the humanness of others. Once you realize, I mean truly understand (get it down in your bones) that everyone is weighted with struggles and vulnerabilities it frees you to be yourself. You’re less apt to act or operate on image, but instead you look to create genuine connections full of laughter and grace.

There are few things in life more freeing than this.

The other night my family went around the dinner table naming our fears. I had to rack my brain to come up with something that scares me. Don’t get me wrong I do have fears, but they didn’t surface quickly. I don’t give them much power or time in my life.

If I were to invent a scientific equation for this post it would be:

Understanding of Vulnerability & Freedom + Lack of Fear = Primed to Take Risks

Do you take risks? If so, why? If not, why not? Do you think risk-taking is part of someone’s genetic wiring? Anything stand out to you about the following quotes?

“What a risk love was. But the riskier the venture and greater the chance of failure, the higher the reward.” –Katrina Kittle, The Blessings of the Animals

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” T.S. Eliot

"If something inside of you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act—truth is always subversive." — Anne Lamott

*photos by flickr


  1. Hmm...I take risks when it only involves me or I'm the only who who can be affected. But not daredevil risks.
    I have a fear of talking in public. I HATE it. (I'll even use the word hate) But I did it and I continue to do it. I like the fact that I'm working on it. Makes me feel like it doesn't have a hold on me. :)

  2. More and more I take risks iwth my writing--even though it might never pay off-- I do that with my blog posts as well. I would say I fear a lot and every day I try to overcome some of those fears by stepping out of my comfort a little more.

  3. I seem to be hardwired for certain kinds of risks, and against others. I'm not keen on heights or speed, but I'm not afraid to be known for who I really am, which seems to be a big fear for some people.

    I love Anne Lamott's quotation--but I wonder, is all truth subversive? I think that's wishful thinking on her part. A lot of truth is conservative, meant not in a political way but that it upholds traditional social values like parental love, self-sacrifice for the greater good, etc.

  4. Love these two lines: Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability.

    I am not a risk taker. I guess I've always carted around some fears, but the last six or seven years I've shed a lot of those and been more willing to try things. I may still feel the fear, but I'm trying not to let that stop me.

  5. Love that quote by T. S. Eliot. I believe we so often limit ourselves by what we are capable of accomplishing. If only we all could let go of the fear we hold so desperately to. Amazing things would happen for sure!

  6. I don't consider myself a risk taker, but several of my family members have remarked recently about my courage in following my dream of being a writer. I hadn't really thought of pursuing publication as being risky, but I suppose it is. We have to put ourselves and our work "out there" and subject ourselves to rejection. For some, that would be daunting.

    So, maybe I am more of risk taker than I realize. Don't, however, expect to see me jumping out of an airplane any time soon. =)

  7. So true!
    Usually it is God who prompts me to take risks. It's been worth it every time. He shows me how empty my fears are and I trust him more and more often as He proves faithful (not that He has to prove Himself). I actually get excited when I get an opportunity to take a risk. God moves through our taking risks. Our enemy wants to keep us fearful and useless.

  8. I'm not sure if I'm a risk-taker.... I think I'm somewhere in the middle.

    I feel like I'm going through Wendy-withdrawal. I must email you.

  9. Love the TS Eliot quote.

    I'm not a risk taker. The Holy Spirit spends far too much time carjoling me into uncharted waters. I'm too much like Peter, looking down instead of out.

  10. Wendy, this is awesome, and timely too. I'm getting ready to take risk taking to a whole new level (at least in my life). Thank you for this :D


  11. I have always been a risk-taker, sometimes to my detriment. Other times it's turned out well. I wish I were more out on a limb with my writing, though. Thanks for challenging me!

  12. Love that first quote! And yes. I've learned time and time again that not only am I not afraid to take them, but to appreciate the high that comes when the risk pays off. If it doesn't and sometimes mine haven't, I've chalked it up to they weren't meant to be. I really believe that.

  13. I am a risk taker. But that's part of why I still fear taking new risks--not all of them have been positive experiences! Believing the risk will pay off in a positive way is something I struggle with.

  14. I do take risks. But, I've found I've become more thoughtful before I actually take the risk. Maybe that is maturity? I don't know.
    Interestingly, I've just noticed my youngest doesn't take them. At. All. She is very scared to look "silly" or whatever. She's 6! I want her to be more of a risk taker and not so worried about what others think. So, I've got some "research" to do. I know not "pushy" but encouraging her to do it.

  15. Hi Wendy -

    I'm not a natural risk-taker, but I'm getting better!

    Off Topic: You won Kay Dacus' book at my blog. I sent you an email. Please send me your snail mail address, so I can get it out to you.

    Susan :)

  16. I'm learning to take more risks again. But for me-it's step by step-instead of jump.:)

  17. When I read this I thought, "I'm completely risk averse." But then I realized that's more from the perspective that I wouldn't jump out of a plane with a parachute attached to me. I do take risks every day in putting myself out there in my writing, in relationships, etc. But that daring to go to my physical limits? Don't have it in me...I'd say it's genetic. :)

  18. I'm learning to take more risks as I come to understand grace.


  19. I tend to be a risk-taker... the problem is that sometimes I'm too impulsive and it'd be better if I sat back and was a bit risk-adverse.

  20. I'm definitely not a risk taker. Not sure why, I'm sure part of it is genetic though because my mom is not a risk taker either.

  21. I'm not a risk-taker. I have to force myself out of my comfort zone on a daily basis. I'm blessed to have a husband who is a risk taker and balances me out.

  22. Wow, those quotes are all so poignant and stirring. I have to say, whether or not I've noticed it or feel like I have, I've taken more risks these past couple of years. Not bad ones, but ones that felt threatening to me in one way or another. For instance, I've never been out of town with a friend and it be just us on our own. Last year, I told my parents I wanted to go on a trip with my best friend, and while they weren't altogether thrilled about it, they didn't stop me.

    I was so afraid they were going to yell at me or try to stop me or threaten to take my car away or something unrealistically radical, but they didn't. It may not sound like a risk to other people, but there are constant risks I feel I'm always taking with my parents because we don't see eye-to-eye on a lot of things, and I find that my life is just a series of struggling against them to set my own belief system - something more than just being a Christian. Because yes, I believe in God and my parents believe in God, but two people can believe in God and have completely different beliefs beyond just believing in God's existence. So, when it comes to my parents, I feel like I have to risk the chance of upsetting them in order to figure out who I am.


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