Tag Archives: inspiration

The Heart of Courage

People who we might think of as emblems of courage, such as Aung San Suu Kyi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela are marked by a strong and clear purpose. Courageous people have a steadiness, a consistency, an ability to stick to their principles and do what they think is right even when times are challenging.  They have a clear inner voice.

My journey into courage has led me away from extraordinary feats of courage towards a way of living courageously that is within reach of everyone. Still it seems that having a strong and clear purpose, and a clear inner voice is a key element of courage.

In order to develop our courage we need to develop our beliefs or values, our meaning and purpose. We need to work on this, investigating alternative points of view, until we find that which we can really believe in, and feel deeply connected to, and use this to guide us through life.

The word courage comes from the old French word corage meaning heart, similar to the Spanish corazon and the modern French coeur. It has long been known and perhaps since forgotten that the source of courage is in the heart.

The more I work on the subject academically and personally, the more I believe this to be true. Learning about different values and beliefs is important, opening your mind is very important, but ultimately your heart tells you what is right and wrong, and tuning into your heart and acting accordingly is living courageously.

When we develop ourselves on the inside, knowing our values, developing our meaning and passion, our clarity of vision on what we stand for, when we can hear what is in our heart, and when we act on it, and live it, then we will find our courage and live the wholehearted life we want.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”  Steve Jobs

 

 

The Opposite of Courage is Apathy

I believe that the opposite of courage is not fear or cowardice, but apathy. We might think that the opposite of courage is fear, as though courage is a state of fearlessness, but courage exists in the presence of fear and courageous acts are conducted in spite of fear.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it”  Nelson Mandela

Courage is always a decision to overcome a tempting, easier option, in order to do what we believe is right. The easier option is usually to do nothing.

We can become very good at doing nothing. My use of the term nothing, means nothing positive, nothing that leads to growth of oneself or others. It means not learning, not looking after your health, not looking for ways to help family, friends or community, not being creative, not taking a stand, not developing and not using our talents to make a positive difference.

It means choosing comfort, security and ease instead. When we choose comfort, security and ease we are effectively choosing nothing, since we are making no contribution to life, neither our own nor the world around us.

The more nothing we do the better we get at it.

We choose comfort eating and TV watching instead of activity, healthy choices and learning. We choose to look after our own comfort instead of making the effort to help others. We choose to keep quiet when we see something is not right. We choose what is easy and after a while we are so used to doing nothing we don’t bother to consider any other option. We simply can’t be bothered. We say yes to nothing and no to life.

Courage requires us to reverse this habit, to push ourselves out of apathy, to make an effort, to say yes, to try, to contribute and to live.

“This is no time for ease and comfort. It is time to dare and endure”. Winston Churchill

PostScript

Paradoxically, in some instances it is the courageous thing to do nothing. Occasionally, to help the growth of someone we care about, we have to hold back when our impulse is to rescue them.