Courage is a mindset

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“Courage is found in unlikely places.”
                                                       J.R.R. Tolkien

Throughout history courage has been considered a vital attribute or virtue in many circles.  It’s been written about by  great philosophers and been a requirement of adherents to various traditions including those following the Samauri Bushido Code and the Knightly code of Chivalry.  It is a key virtue in almost every military tradition;  eastern or western, present day or in the past.  But what is this thing called courage? What place does it have in society today? What does it mean to be courageous in everyday life?

When I think about courage I don’t instantly think of those who go out to achieve great feats of strength or daring or to conquer world records.  That sort of courage, that risk taking sort of courage isn’t where I go first.  Don’t get me wrong, I definitely appreciate the intrepidness of thrill seekers and the fortitude it takes to conquer mind and body while surmounting physical hurdles, be they mountains, giant waves, marathons, ocean crossings.  When I think of courage I think of the Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Emmeline Pankhurst, Aung SanSuu Kyi type of courage. Despite all the meanings and interpretations of courage my immediate definition of courage is that which describes those who sacrifice their own sense of comfort or freedom to stand up for principles they hold dear, for principles they believe are a basic human right.  That sort of courage captivates me.  It’s the sort of courage we see played out in many popular novels, and plays and movies.  We all love a hero.  Ethics scholar Scott LaBarge believes we define our ideals on the heroes we choose and as a result, our ideals define us.  But what does that mean? For me? Today?

I wouldn’t consider myself self-sacrificing.  I don’t play on a large scale; locally or internationally.  I’m certainly not an intrepid adventurer or world record beater. Am I then devoid of courage? Is the average person today without courage? I think not. Perhaps then this thing called courage can take many forms. Perhaps there are degrees of courage. Perhaps courage  can be  subtle and understated. What do you think?

Wouldn’t it be marvellous to collect stories of courage, an anthology of everyday courage of the men and women we know? Whose story would you share?

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Are your stories holding back a wave of change?

There are watchers in this world and there are doers. And the watchers sit around watching the doers, do.
Barefoot in the Park

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My son recently took part in the 40 hour famine, a weekend fast to raise money for families in third world countries. I was intrigued by the reaction he received from friends and acquaintances. Most were really supportive, none took up his challenge to join him but what surprised me the most were those who commented that they’d die if they gave up food for forty hours. Some claimed they couldn’t give up food for several hours and then there was the poor soul who unashamedly remarked that  they couldn’t possibly give up their chips and gravy on a Friday night.

On the final day of the challenge my community minded son volunteered to cook breakfast at a local fun run. Again, the comments and reactions of others intrigued me. Many, of course, were supportive yet questioned his sanity in cooking bacon and eggs for others while fasting himself. But the number of detractors surprised me. Yes, yes, I’m sure it was all in jest but a mother does always want to protect her young. One cocky fellow posted on social media that he’d seen my son tucking into a bacon and egg burger and labelled his efforts as a ‘massive fail’. Oh, I was irate (protective mother hen coming out). I fumed and fumed, wondering if I could address this flippant fellow in a firm but gentle way. I was saved the trouble when he was publicly corrected by another.

I digress.

My interest was piqued by the thinking behind the conversations that arose from this event. I began to ponder the stories we tell ourselves and the implications they have on our society.

I have concluded that some of us tell ourselves we couldn’t possibly do without things, or give up a tradition or change a habit because, perhaps, it’s easier not to. Some of us cut others down who do things we aren’t brave enough to do. Then there are those who gladly and wholeheartedly support others in their quests. These people fall into two categories: those happy to cheer others on while remaining in their comfort zones and those who cheer while pursuing their own challenges alongside them.

I see this played out in the community and the world. We pass things by, overlook issues and justify our inaction safe in the knowledge that others will take up the torch and do the work for us. We are relieved from our duty by the heroes in the world.

Alone, our heroes make a difference in the world, they get things done but their efforts are akin to a splash in the ocean, whereas, if we all pitched in and got involved we could create a wave of change in the world.

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With this in mind I asked myself these questions:

What are my stories and how are they holding me back from making a change I’d like to see in my life and the world?

What will it take to step outside my comfort zone, to put myself on the line, to contribute to a wave of change?

What are your thoughts?
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