Thursday, June 19, 2014

How to Train Your Courage

As a follow up to my post last week I thought I would share some thoughts after seeing How to Train Your Dragon 2.  The movie is as great as the first one.  I definitely recommend it.  It has some new themes in this adventure expanding on Hiccup's friendship with Toothless.  I was thinking about my post last week and thought, "What if Hiccup stayed in his head and held onto his cheat sheet?  Would he and Toothless become hurt and crashed into the rocks?  Friendship is great when two people are in it together but what if Toothless and/or Hiccup backed out when the going got rough?" (Spoilers ahead!)

The unfortunate truth is that the latter is more common in our society.  Even if you can miraculously get to the place of finding a solid friend willing to go through thick and thin with you, he/she may back out when coming under the pressures of the status quo or other trials.  (No wonder getting married is so scary for some people.  Will your spouse-to-be still be there when you're in a rough spot?)

The great thing about How to Train Your Dragon 2 is the outlook it offers on these ideas.

The film starts off 5 years after the last film.  Dragons are now an integrated part of society for the vikings of Berk.  Even Hiccup's father has his own beloved Dragon called Skullcrusher.  The vikings with their dragon companions are of one heart and mind--like true friends.  As seen in the teaser for the movie, Hiccup and Toothless are now working on flying separately.  They still need one another to survive but they don't let this take away from their personal development or being interdependent.  (More on this later.)

Hiccup has also become a master dragon whisperer in his exploration of the world around him.  This makes him quite the contrast to the film's new villain, Drago Bludvist.

Drago is raising a dragon army to conquer the world.  Unlike Hiccup, Drago rules his dragons with fear and abuse.  Drago doesn't care for his dragons.  To him, dragons are a means to an end and nothing more.  (Not a very good friend.)  Where Hiccup is the ultimate friend, Drago is the worst.  So what makes these two so different?  Both have lost a limb to dragons.  Both have been afraid of them.  The difference is in courage and cowardice.

I used to think that cowardice was inaction in the presence of fear.  I thought that cowards always tremble and froze up in fear.  I'm learning that this is only a type of cowardice.

Drago is one of those jerks who can't be reasoned with.
There is another type of cowardice where action does happen.  Drago is a coward.  Drago acts from his fear.  He acts in a way because he is afraid of being hurt.  He quickly conquers dragons before he can be conquered.  Sometimes we can find friends like this.  They aren't ever really vulnerable with us, they may manipulate us, or try to control the friendship we share with them instead of letting go.

Hiccup on the other hand is a leader to dragons by giving up control.  Hiccup shows trust to them and is vulnerable to them.  He may wave a sword with firebreath to show the dragons that he is one of them but ultimately he is at their mercy.  He places his hands on their snouts for crying out loud.  One swift chomp and he could lose an arm!  He holds no illusions about it.  Is he afraid?  You bet.  The difference is that he doesn't act from his fear but in spite of it.  To have courage doesn't mean a lack of fear it's acting on a belief that is greater than whatever fear that is present.  True friends have this kind of courage.

I've been a coward and I've lost a true friend from it.

Remember last week when I shared the scene of Hiccup looking at his cheat sheet and thinking, "Screw it!  I need to be in my heart right now!"  That wasn't me.  Hiccup got it right.  For me, I couldn't decide whether to let go of that cheat sheet and ultimately crashed and burned.  I hurt myself and I hurt my friend.  I've been in a place where I've tried to control my friendships because of my fear of losing them.

So how do we avoid coward friends like Drago and stick to courageous friends like Hiccup?

Towards the end of the film, Drago uses an alpha male dragon to gain control of an army of dragons and attacks Berk.  Among the dragons captured is Toothless.  Drago even rides the nightfury into battle to take over Berk.  Toothless is unfortunately under mind control from the alpha male.  Hiccup has his friends distract the alpha male while he reaches out to Toothless, his friend.

Sometimes we stick with jerks like Drago because we're afraid not to.  It may take us a while to see how a coward like him will hurt us because we won't believe in our selves or see ourselves as worthy of love.  It may not be until we're out of the "friendship" (if you want to call it that) that we see that the other was a Drago that just tried to control us or hurt us.

I so wish I had a nightfury.  Best. Friend. Ever!!

Hiccup reaches to Toothless just like how when they first became friends.  He's completely vulnerable and puts trust that Toothless will remember his friend.  He places his palm on Toothless' snout urging him to see that he's right there.  A good friend will reach out to you and remind you of why you became friends in the first place.  He will seek forgiveness when he knows he's been a jerk and will show that the friendship is still important to him.  This level of humility and vulnerability takes courage.

Toothless snaps out of the mind control of the alpha male.  He bucks Drago off and is reunited with Hiccup.  Together they have to defeat the very powerful alpha male.

Hiccup places a blindfold on Toothless and holds his ears down to sound out the alpha male's influence.  The alpha male, like Drago, controls the other dragons through fear and abuse.  Sometimes messages of fear took me away from heart and I allowed them to make me a coward instead of trusting myself and trusting my friend.

The movie ends with an awesome scene of Toothless protecting Hiccup from the alpha male, winning over the other dragons, and thus becoming the new alpha male.  Hiccup is also made the new chief of Berk.  Hiccup turns to bad-guy-turned-good-guy Eret (voiced by Kit Harrington aka Jon Snow) and sets him up with a dragon that lost his rider.  The dragon lost a friend in the movie but finds a new one to heal the loss in Eret.

We lose friends sometimes.  It may be from death, distance, or misunderstanding.  We may fight and long for what we lost but sometimes the answer is to say goodbye and open your heart for someone else.  I'm thankful for second chances and future friendships to heal from what I've lost.  Communicating and building friendships takes risk and work.  It also takes courage.  It's okay to be scared just trust yourself and you'll find where you need to be with the right people.


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