People often talk about courage. The problem is, most people don't see themselves as being very courageous. Think back in your life. When was the last time you were truly courageous? Maybe it was in middle school when you finally had enough of that nasty bully. Maybe it was in high school when you fought through an injury, got back on the field, and scored the winning goal. Maybe it was in college when you finally took the chance and asked her out.
What does courage really mean? What does it mean to be courageous? The truth is that courage is truly in the eyes of the beholder. Actions that look like courage to some may seem mundane to others. Decisions that took you months to make may look like weakness to some. To me, having courage is the act of stepping into the unknown.
This is intentionally vague. Confronting that middle school bully was definitely a step into the unknown. Walking back out on that field, not knowing how long you could last, feeling like there was tiger biting your knee, was definitely a step into the unknown. Finally asking our your crush is absolutely a step into the unknown (well maybe you had some idea).
The problem is that these days, courage comes neatly packaged in quotes or is displayed proudly on the walls of your office building on big posters. People tend to say that someone has courage if they face their fears, go out on a limb, or start a new business. Sure, these things absolutely involve courage, but there are so many times in our lives when we use courage and don't even know it.
There is so much more depth in the discussion about courage than we tend to realize. I would argue that there are significantly more times in our lives when we are being courageous. Our decisions or actions need not be life altering to be courageous. For some, the act of getting out of bed in the morning is courageous. If you are struggling with depression or social anxiety, the idea of getting out of bed and facing the world is a truly scary one. Having courage involves making the decision to get up, day in and day out. Congrats to you, by the way.
Courage can also be viewed on a grand scale. History is full of examples of this. Think about the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Can you imagine the courage of those men? They would be in the unexplored wilderness for months with no effective communication tools, few supplies, and not even an idea of what a GPS was. The volumes of courage this would have taken is of a scope I can only wish to attain someday.
In my mind, Rosa Parks stands out as the Queen in the courage arena. I cannot fathom the amount of courage it must have taken to say that one simple word. No. That one simple word that would kickstart a fight for equality which still, more than 50 years later, as STILL not been won.
The problem with using examples from history here is that we don't have as much to pull from in the present. In my mind, John McCain was a great example. Pressured by his entire party, he defied many of his colleagues and the president when he cast his vote against the repeal of the ACA. Truly, McCain is on that upper echelon when it comes to courage.
An issue I see increasingly is that people somehow seem to be losing their courage. People are afraid to go after their dreams because they may crash and burn. People are afraid to speak out against injustice because they fear retribution from the other side. People seek to build walls because they fear others, regardless of their struggle, strife, or history. Truly, this must change.
We as a society need to stop holding our tongue when we see injustice or inequality.
The MeToo Movement is a great example of this. Thousands of women have spoken out against politicians, businessmen, and anyone else who has wronged them because a small group chose to face their fears and speak. This is the example we should follow. This is what courage looks like.
Courage starts small. Courage grows. As with fire, so with Courage. One person can start a movement which betters the lives of thousands, even millions. A small group that makes the hard choice can better the lives of those not courageous enough to make it themselves. Stand up to that bully. Get back on the field. Ask the question. Those around you will appreciate it.
I ask you: What can courage NOT do?