Live Well: Courage

Live Well: Courage“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” Mark Twain
 Courage is defined as the ability to do something that is frightening or having strength to endure painful situations. History is replete with examples of courageous men and women from Moses parting the Red Sea while leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt; Joan of Arc, a peasant girl who led a French army against English occupation; Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran Pastor who spoke out against Nazism; Martin Luther King, a civil rights leader who fought against racial discrimination; Nelson Mandela, who fought against apartheid in South Africa and many, many more individuals too numerous to include in this writing.  

 But courageous people also live among us, often without fanfare, and enjoy quiet lives as workers, husbands, wives, friends, acquaintances, neighbors and even children. How can we recognize these everyday heroes? They are individuals who stand up for what they believe in even if their beliefs are unpopular; they follow a vision despite obstacles; they keep on keeping on even when there is fear of the unknown; they are willing to sacrifice to make others successful, and they can admit when they are wrong without adding an excuse or explanation for their behavior.

 Our everyday heroes have compassion for others, strong commitment that may require personal sacrifice, determination, perseverance, can show genuine emotion, and can take an unpopular stand for something they believe in; they have courage to forgive and move past mistakes, theirs or others, and their road to success is often accomplished in incremental steps.

 Acts of courage occur in everyday life—facing the fear of public speaking, expressing an opinion that is not popular within a group, speaking out about injustice, refusing to go along with the group just to be accepted, experiencing defeat but willing to try again, living with a serious disability or critical illness, forgiving self or others for mistakes and choosing to accept them as learning experiences. Reinhold Niebuhr, author of the Serenity Prayer, encourages Believers to ask God to help them accept the things they cannot change, courage to change the things they can and to pray for wisdom to know the difference.

It is not always easy to admit when one is wrong, to go against the grain or stand up for truth.  Ernest Hemingway wrote that: “Courage is grace under pressure.”  So, as you go about your everyday lives, be on the lookout for courageous people, those whose integrity compels them to say “no”, even when pressured to do otherwise, doing the right thing just because it is the right thing and voicing truths, even those that are unwelcome.