The Myth of Liquid Courage

It was a Sunday afternoon. My mom, my sister, and I were the only ones on the dancefloor.

“I told you no one dances at christenings!” I yelled to my mom.

She shrugged. “I guess you were right!”

We continued shimmying, clapping, and side-stepping through whatever song the DJ played for us. Nothing he played would bring the plethora of seated spectators to the floor. He tried “Let’s Get Loud.” He tried “Uptown Funk.” He tried some Italian club songs I’d never heard. When the DJ handed us flashing maracas that glowed different colors, even the gimmick wasn’t enticing enough.

A good portion of the guests were under the age of 40. We had seen them dance at the hosts’ wedding two years ago, so we knew they weren’t wallflowers with two left feet. We approached a few tables and beckoned people to join us. They laughed nervously and shook their heads. Then we approached one of our cousins, but she indicated that she needed a drink.

Ah. Liquid courage.

I remembered a college reunion event I attended a few years ago. I was the first person to sing karaoke that night, after waiting an hour and a half for anyone else to go first. Afterwards I ran onto the sparse dancefloor to join the other brave folks who weren’t professional dancers. An acquaintance of mine chatted with me later, and his breath stunk from whatever he drank. He hadn’t danced at all the whole night.  

Before the event began, I asked several people if they were going to sing at the karaoke mic or boogie down to the music. People laughed and replied “maybe after I’ve had a few drinks.” I thought it was kind of sad that people were going to withhold the joy of singing and dancing from themselves because they needed to wait for some substance to kick in. I didn’t have that luxury–I’m one of those few medicated souls who actually follows the warning label from the pharmacy. Aside from that, I had other reasons for not drinking, but that’s a post for another time. Here’s why I think so-called “liquid courage” is malarkey.

Think back to when you were a kid and you had to play a little league championship game, or sing the national anthem in front of the entire school, or give an end of the year class presentation. Think back to the first time you jumped off a diving board or rode on a roller coaster. You couldn’t rely on liquid courage back then. You had to do it afraid. Do you remember what happened afterward? The reward. The biggest adrenaline rush you’ve ever experienced in your life. That feeling of accomplishment as you emerged from the pool or took your bow or held up the trophy. When was the last time you felt that? I think that with liquid courage, you’re cheating yourself. You’re robbing yourself of a certain kind of happiness–the kind you have when you push through the awkwardness and fear and realize that everything is going to be okay. When you find your wacky dance moves are liberating. When your karaoke singing inspires others to walk up to the mic and give it a try.

You don’t need alcohol to be brave. Be fully present in the crazy moments. Experience every feeling associated with whatever nerve-wracking thing you’re doing. You will want to remember it when it’s over. For the love of all things bright and beautiful, I dare you to do it afraid. Next time you feel the need to reach for liquid courage, challenge yourself to push through your feelings and see what you accomplish. As somebody who doesn’t get to use liquid courage, I can assure you that it is rewarding to do the scary stuff without it, and you do build reference points that you can use later on in life (i.e. “If I did that, then I can do this”).

How do I do it, then, when I can’t drink? I can’t rely on myself. When I feel afraid, I pray. I pray knowing that God is bigger than whatever thing I’m facing. Bigger than my anxiety. More vast than a million stage performances, job interviews, or college exams. The God who gave Joshua the courage to lead the Israelites across the Jordan, Gideon the courage to defeat the Midianites, and Paul the courage to preach the Gospel even when he faced persecution–that same God will give me the courage to ride the Thunderbolt and introduce myself to strangers at an event.

Greater is He who is living in me than he who is living in the world.*


PS This post is not meant to demonize alcohol at all. I’ll explore that topic in another entry, hopefully very soon. Much love. 💛