courage, Guest Posts

Guest post by James Vincent Knowles: On Courage.

February 16, 2012

This guest post is so real, so beautiful, so honest. Makes my heart ache a bit. Love you Jim and thank you……

James Vincent Knowles



*Benjamin Franklin said courage had something to do with owning one’s faults & having the resolution to mend them. If that’s true, then maybe I have a little bit.

It’s rather difficult to determine if one has courage. It’s easier to see courage in others.

I can, however, tell a story and let others be the judge.

I’ll begin with my faults.

Not the superficial ones. The character faults. The deep faults. The faults which have hobbled me all my life in one way or another:

Niceness. That’s a big fault. I looked “nice” up in the Oxford English Dictionary. Originally meant, “ignorant.” Uh, oh. Yep. We still use it that way if you ask me. I mean, what does THIS mean: he’s a nice guy / she’s a nice girl?

Gullible. Easy. Clueless. Not hip. Not dirty. Innocent. Unpretentious. (You get the idea.) Being nice can cause a lot of pain. It certainly has for me.

Helpful. That’s another big fault. I like to help people. No, that’s not completely honest. I LOVE helping people. Especially if i’m able to do so without attaching expectations. Without expecting reciprocation. Altruistic help. This one has plagued me all my life. It’s really a combination of being nice with the additional problem of boundary awareness. I help people then they ask for more then I do it then they ask for more then I do it and then what happens? I go past where I ought to have done & / or don’t set proper boundaries and then what? Little bits of expectations seep in. Little bits of resentment squeak through. And before you know it, helpfulness has turned ugly. That’s a real fault. It’s a hard thing to learn for a nice guy.

Procrastination. Ugh. Who doesn’t know about this one? Well, maybe Clark Kent & Cliff Michaels. Maybe Jennifer Pastiloff. (haha… kidding~! I know Clark Kent procrastinates~!). That’s about it. Rest of us procrastinate. Some more than others. Thing about procrastination though … something even my nice, helpful, lazy self has noticed, when we’re really happy, doing what we love, living our dream, we do not procrastinate. We tackle the big, dirty jobs straight up & straight away, all the while knowing the enjoyable stuff is there waiting for us when we’re finished. You know it’s true. So why do we not live that way all the time? But okay. First we need find that flow. That thing we LOVE so much it makes us want to take out the trash before that first cup of coffee / kale juice in the morning.

Talking. Oh boy. I love to talk. Particularly with people i like. People who’ve got time to talk AND listen. People who are interested & interesting. Mind you, i’m talking about conversation, discussion, sharing. Balanced, animated, open, real, honest, non-judgmental, fun talk without meanness. Measured and blended it can be an elixir made of nirvana. As intimate as the best sex you’ve ever enjoyed and as noisy. Yeah, talking is definitely one of my faults. But okay, I’ve become a pretty good listener along the way as well. Listening isn’t a fault though so I’m not listing it as one here.

Thinking. Bwuahahaha~! If one more person tells me I think too much I’m going to walk to Antarctica. Effffffffffffff me~! Now this one is a real problem. Then again, maybe I just need to be around people who appreciate thinking?

I used to not think as much & i wasn’t any happier.

In fact, without thinking, what would we be? Animals? Alien life forms? And how would one person be any different than another if we couldn’t think for ourselves? Also, if thinking is so bad, why are we always asking others what they think? Gotcha there.

But okay. I’m listing it as a “fault” because so many people tell me i think too much. I think I know what these people mean when they tell me that. What they mean is, I’ve not explained myself concisely enough to pique their curiosity or they mean that they don’t care enough to hear what I’ve got to say or they mean they simply don’t like the stuff i think about.

It’s all too much to think about.

Resolution to mend them.

I think that word “resolution” means “a decision to do or not do something.” Sometimes not so easy, is it?

Niceness. Well, okay. I’m a curious guy. And I can read. So when something bad happens as a result of my being too nice I educate myself. It’s hard to not be nice. But it doesn’t mean ya gotta be mean. That’s not a complete resolution. I’m still nice.

But now i’m kinder, gentler & more patient. & curiouser. But most importantly, nicer to myself. Learning to nurture my self. Now THAT takes a lot of courage~!

Helpful. Well, this one is easy to fix. Be MORE helpful but help myself first. Sounds a lot like that love thing.

You know that one, “love yourself first in order to know / have / receive / give love.”? Well, okay, I’m still working on that one as well.

Aren’t we all? I am beginning to see a pattern in all these as I write this.

Procrastination. This is that “just do it” thing, right? Crap. This one can be really hard if one isn’t sure what to do I’ll have to come back to this one.

Talking. I’m screwed on this one. I thought I resolved it by moving 200 miles from LA … alone. Of course I did this because I’d completely self-destructed. Or at least I thought I had. I’d blame it on someone else but what good would that do? Besides, it wouldn’t be self-destruction if it was someone else’s fault! I will say this … running across Jennifer’s blog just might have shut me up a bit. That is, it shut up some of the negative conversations I was having with myself. Which of course, made me think. For instance, about how some of the things … no, all of the things Jen posts tend to inspire, enlighten, encourage & heal. It certainly does these things for me! Interesting. I’ve never met Jennifer. I’m not a real yoga dude. I’m a total beginner. A procrastinating, lazy one at times. I find myself far from where I belong (Santa Monica). But I had to leave town. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Take that back. It was THE hardest thing i’ve ever done. Not the move. I’ve moved 37+ times in my life. It was leaving in total shame. Wrung out. So entirely twisted, crushed, hurt, embarrassed, and, well, let’s just say pretty much completely distraught, dazed & confused. The worst~! Oh wait. How does this resolve the fault of talking? haha… I am just using it as a device to talk about myself. 🙂

Thinking: I’m not quite ready to admit this is a fault. Guess I’m still in denial. Either that or maybe by thinking a lot I’ve come to the conclusion that if one thinks about the right stuff, thinking a lot is good.

So what does any of my crap have to do with courage? Not sure. This is what flowed forth from me today. I have faults. I’m willing to admit them. I’m willing to mend them. I admit I will need help along the way. But most of all, this is about shame & how it takes courage to look at it. To be vulnerable.

I left town in shame. Obliterated by shame. Almost dead from shame. Beyond comprehension shame. Little did I know I was yet to be shamed enough. There was tons more shame coming and it boy oh boy has ever been heaped upon me. Throughout all this I’ve continued learning, reading, thinking and talking. And okay, even praying & meditating. I procrastinated on everything but that which I believed mattered most … love, understanding & empathy. Love. Understanding. Empathy. And oh boy did I learn some stuff about niceness. And helpfulness. And procrastination. And talking. And thinking. Oh boy. Oh man. Oh boy.

I got vulnerable with myself. (I’m not sure one can do that but i have been doing it). Jen’s blog posts have helped me a LOT. Helped me see the authentic me. Jen’s blog & two real friends. One new one friend & one old friend. The new friend encouraged me to be myself. The old friend gave me a little tiny bit of empathy & understanding. Lifesavers, all. Jen’s blog has been incredibly inspiring. I say that a lot. I feel inspired by all the stories on you blog, Jen. So refreshing. Real. Like coming home or something.

So okay, I’ve been looking at myself deeply. I was feeling so worthless I wondered if I was alive. In fact, as I look around my space it looks as if a total loser lives here. But at least now I know that’s because this isn’t home. This is just a place to sleep and think. This is a place I can be totally vulnerable with myself, let myself see my self. Bardot. Die before you die. Tranquility. Calm mind. Quietude.

Screw the decorating.

Two years ago I owned a paparazzi photo agency. Yes, I know. That makes me a “bad guy”. 

8 months ago I quit. Sold everything I own, car, cameras, furniture. I also decided I’m an artist. Maybe a writer. I’ve since realized I am a dam nice guy. That I enjoy helping people. That I need to be connected to others, preferably people who have empathy. I need to connect and feel that sense of belonging we all need. To be around people, doing things which get my juices flowing. Be a part of something which gives me energy so that I don’t procrastinate. Connect with others who think, maybe even others who enjoy talking, nice people, helpful people, doing things that matter.

When I left LA I was screwed up. I’m telling you right now. But deep down I knew, despite the crap, the shame, and the embarrassment, it would be worth it. Letting go of everything. Leaving town. Being alone. I had zero idea of what might happen next. Still don’t. Although I am postulating & imagining & envisioning & praying & writing & thinking & every once in a while, I can even SEE and FEEL what i want my life to be like. All I know is I quit everything and even though much of what caused my shame & confusion & disconnection & pain was still happening, I have continued to think (and think with more clarity), continued to be nice, learn, grow (I hope), and talk about it, even if only with myself.

And yes, somewhere along this journey, this story line, a door opened. I ran into a person I’ve never met. The Universe connected me with Jen’s blog & all the beautiful, authentic, empathic, compassionate, real, joyful, encouraging people with whom she is connected. Vicariously through this blog I’ve been inspired and enriched.

I’ve allowed myself to be vulnerable, to be my self and i’ve found myself gaining strength and feeling human again. Healing, if you will. And for that I’m so grateful~! So is that courageous? Doesn’t really feel like it. It just feels real.


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  • Reply Dottie Wagner February 17, 2012 at 5:01 am

    Bravo! You are courageous! Thank you for your genuine and very open sharing of yourself.

    • Reply James Vincent Knowles February 17, 2012 at 10:43 am

      Thank you Dottie. I really don’t feel courageous. However, I am feeling a little more free and a little less shaky. Thank you too, Jen, for your encouragement.

  • Reply Monique Bichard Cooper February 17, 2012 at 3:10 pm


    Funny how life works. I came across an article by Jennifer on Positively Positive today about ‘owning loving your life’. Clicked on her website link to learn more about her and there’s your article.

    Courage. So much of what you wrote resonated with me, deeply; as if a mirror were being held up in front of me. Thank you for your heart-felt vulnerability and courage to be real. It was exactly what I needed to read today!

    • Reply jamesvincentknowles February 17, 2012 at 5:11 pm

      I bow to your form, Monique
      For courage, encourage another.
      Your kindness will be mirrored.
      Gratitude appreciated.
      Love returned through connection.

  • Reply Robert February 19, 2012 at 10:29 am

    This is an inspiring post!

    • Reply James Vincent Knowles February 20, 2012 at 11:13 am

      ta, Robert. gratitude appreciated. encouragement~!

  • Reply Kusuma Duffy May 19, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    ‘who looks outside, dreams. who looks inside, awakens’ carl jung
    many thanks for your inspirational post!

  • Reply Ms. Leslie B. September 1, 2014 at 9:52 am

    WoW! What you wrote resonates so deeply within myself, I can feel the pain we share flowing through the neurons in my brain. I have most of the same problems, if you will, that I am working on as well. I love to read Jennifer’s posts as well, and I just came across yours after I read another one, as I procrastinate about cleaning the house. It seems being nice just comes naturally, like helping others for no reason, but just to show others that there are still nice people in this world. We live in such a troubled world. Why should niceness be so bad? Wait James, I Know!! Because we can be oh so ugly to ourselves, overly nice to others, even if they do not deserve it and because people take advantage of the niceness we share. The willingness to go above and beyond to help someone in need. It does sometimes seem like a character flaw, but then you wonder how can my ability to be nice to someone and share my light be so bad? And then you try to stop. For a day. Maybe wake up and say, okay Leslie, you need to STOP being so happy around others, STOP being so nice, STOP sprinkling sunshine and happy stars everywhere you go, because people will think you are crazy and they will take advantage of you. I REALLY wake up and think I can STOP. But I cannot. I cannot change the way I LOVE to share my spirit with this hurtful world. I cannot change the way I LOVE to be nice and helpful so that someone else can feel good. I tried. I even tried to STOP telling my co-worker at work ‘hello’ or ‘good morning’ when we pass in the hallway, and I know she CANNOT stand me. She never answers back. And I still cannot STOP. I am still working on it though. My heart hurts when people are mean to me, and I take it personally, even though I KNOW it is not me, it is them. Or is it me? Enough for now. Enough Leslie. As a Therapist I should know better. Oh well, guess I will keep trying to make this world a better place, for what it is worth. I am going to STOP procrastinating for now, and go clean some house, since this is Labor Day, and the work week is coming again. Thanks James for letting me open my can of worms and let some out. Your niceness and sharing really helped me out today. And I thank you for being who you are. With Love and Kindness, Leslie B.

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