03 May Recognizing Your Courage
I’ve never thought of myself as courageous, but someone recently described me that way and it made me think of courage in a new light.
A little story
I’d been asked to play my lyre and sing at a community café for half an hour. I rarely perform publicly but when I do I tuck myself in a corner and provide background music. This time I had to play and sing centre stage, so to speak, followed by three professional musicians.
At first my fingers were missing a lot of notes and playing wrong notes, and my singing wasn’t exactly stellar, but I kept going. After a couple of songs my fingers and voice settled down, and I started to enjoy the music. Afterwards, amazingly to me, I was asked to play and sing for the first hour on the opening day of a new Community Market.
Features of courage
Melanie Greenberg, a clinical psychologist in California, has identified six features of courage, and I realized I had called on four of them. Think of situations when you’ve felt afraid, and discover which features of courage you have called on. You may find that you’re braver than you think!
1) Feeling fear yet choosing to act.
A situation that calls on our courage may be social, as in meeting new people or facing a conflict. It may be physical, as in paddling a canoe in whitewater. It could also be mental when, for example, we find the courage to say what we think, or learn how to use different social media.
2) Following your heart
It may be easier to follow the crowd or do what people expect of us, but I think that following our hearts adds sparkle to life. Being our own true selves is deeply gratifying.
3) Persevering in the face of adversity
I remember a story about a boy scout who had to stand up and say his piece in front of the other scouts and parents. He had all kinds of trouble getting the words out, but he kept on going. His scout master afterwards asked the crowd how many had given up and quit in the past, and how that boy’s performance was a shining example of persevering in the face of adversity.
4) Expanding your horizons; letting go of the familiar
It seems to me that life is one long process of letting go of the familiar, whether it’s leaving home or starting a new job or becoming a parent or growing old. Welcoming new horizons that are thrust on us takes courage, and even more courage to actively seek out new horizons regardless of age!
5) Facing suffering with dignity or faith
One of my brothers died of Lou Gehrig’s Disease. In spite of ever-increasing weaknesses, and losing his ability to speak, he still stayed involved in community and wrote his church’s weekly bulletin right up to the week before he died. He figured out how to face suffering.
6) Standing up for what is right
There are lots of famous examples of this, such as Martin Luther King Jr., or Nelson Mandela, but it’s local, ordinary people I think of who speak up when someone makes a racist remark or bravely point out social injustices over and over again.
Your own stories of courage
Now that you know these six features of courage, I expect that you would find lots of examples of your own courage throughout your life, by examining it with a courage lens. And here are some courage quotations that may inspire you. Two of my favourites are
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.” – Mary Anne Radmacher.
“Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.” – Maggie Kuhn, Social Activist.