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In the Risk

Shield of Charlemagne

Beth: Dad. When you married Mom, did you ever think that you wouldn't make it?
Beth's Dad: Elizabeth Ann. Honey, you cannot learn from my mistakes. You're going to have to go out there and make your own. Now, you could get your heart broken or you could have the greatest love affair the world has ever known, but you're not going to know unless you try.
Beth: But what if there was a guarantee that you'd never get hurt.
Beth's Dad: Baby... the passion is in the risk. It's like I always say, If you're going to be a bear...
Beth: ...Be a grizzly.

- from the movie, WHEN IN ROME, 2010, directed by Mark Steven Johnson, starring Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel.

I decided to write this morning on the worth of risk, thinking of one sentence fragment from the 2010 film WHEN IN ROME. Beth's Dad says to Beth on the cusp of her wedding vows, "...the passion is in the risk." He is touching on a truism we have all heard a thousand times: Take a chance! The guaranteed outcome is the boring one.

Beth's Dad goes on to tell his daughter, who is uncertain whether she has earned her groom's love or stolen it in a magic twist of coins stolen from an Italian fountain, that if you're going to be a bear, "...Be a grizzly." In other words, go big or go home. I think we all too often cop out on ourselves when it comes to taking risks. Common sense intervenes, past experience warns us off, uncertainty makes us hesitate. Yet this insight that passion lies in the element of risk is absolutely a core truth. We are moved to take chances by great desire: To win the cup, woo the girl, cross the crevasse. Risk and passion are co-igniters. They are catalysts for one another in purpose and in meaning. We value what we struggle to achieve and we struggle to achieve what we value. And if you're going to put a toe in the water - plan on jumping in completely. Nothing is ever won by being half-committed.

Our heroine Beth goes on to risk her lover's commitment by confessing the trick of the magic coin only to discover the coin was never in his possession, and the assumed "guarantee of love" was a sham: all along risk ruled in the giving of their hearts. Risk is true of love, but there lies a wider meaning than that. All life is a gamble, and the passion we bring to embracing opportunity is directly reflected in what satisfaction life awards us. Risk is truly noteworthy following failure. Such nonchalance to embrace risk when we've only ever made successful leaps to the opposite side. Far braver, far more poignant, the risk for one who has fallen before. And yet, wouldn't we also agree far sweeter, when the next, truly uncertain leap, takes the prize?

The courage of the human heart is a shield we take into battle with uncertainty. It is not so much that we are never wounded, but just never enough to quit the game.

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