Take a world class long-jumper and place him in the ocean and he won’t jump any higher than an infant whose legs have only just learned to stand.
Take the most brilliant jewel that imprisons the eyes of the greedy and the souls of the lustful and cast it into the darkness, and you won’t know the difference between it and its neighboring stone.
Seat a man on the throne and bestow on him a crown and riches beyond imagination, but strip him of his people and there will be no one to call him King.
In the same way that the ground gives substance to an athlete, light reveals the beauty of a jewel, and the people of a kingdom make a king, courage is the foundation on which every virtue, every commitment, and every promise rises.
Did you catch that? Our ambitions, our generosity, our patience, our resolve, our love for family, our stance against injustice do not stand on the grounds of courage. No, they are rising; they are growing. Because if and only if they are founded on the tables of courage, they are forced to embolden themselves, to rise above circumstance and the elements. Courage doesn’t tame selflessness or kindness. It doesn’t put boundaries around faith and risk or say, “Enough” to sacrifice and devotion. It doesn’t have regard for normalcy or give consideration to judgement and the status quo. Those are things fear does under the disguise of rationale.
Instead, courage asks us,
we who care for the sick and ostracized,
we who burn at the sight of cruelty and violence,
we who demand peace and friendship,
we who want to change the world, we who want to confess love,
we who cry at the collapse of principle and morales,
we who despise corruption, and
we who ourselves have failed many times,
“I know it’s terrifying out there, but are you willing to walk out there with me?”
I’ve imagined a number of times standing on trial as a means of weighing out the weight of my accomplishments, a sort of introspection I do from time to time. And for each of these imaginary trials, I’m being tried for a characteristic I hoped to have cultivated over the course of my life.
One time it’s love, another time it’s forgiveness, another time it’s humility. And each of those times, I always had tears in my eyes because I would imagine the history of my life and feel regret. It was the consistent thread of emotion that bore the sadness of missing out on life. Knowing that there was so many more steps to have been taken, words to have been spoken, tears to have been shed, and bodies to have been embraced. I stood in front of the jury of my conscience ashamed of not having loved courageously, forgiven boldly, and lived confidently.
You see, it takes courage to disregard what words might be exchanged when we extend our hands to a prostitute.
It takes courage to give our friend our last $100 knowing we’ll struggle to eat ourselves.
It takes courage to look at our lives with an honest and sincere heart and acknowledge where we’ve failed.
It takes courage to look foolish in front of others, to not be stirred when we venture to learn a new language, to start a business, or support a cause.
It takes courage in this day to raise our voices against the upheaval of culture and the loss of respect for family and faith.
It takes courage to claim your weaknesses and to be vulnerable in the sight of people.
It takes courage to be ostracized, misunderstood, and even given the short end for going against the current of your work environment, your social circle, and even your family.
At the end of the day, no matter how selfless, how upright, how honest, we think or even know ourselves to be, it only counts if we’re not ashamed to have courage stand at our sides.
It’s not about the dramatic leaps we take every once in a while that might get our names in the newspapers, fired from our jobs, or killed in distant lands.
It’s our ability to daily answer “Yes,” to the question, “Will you be true to yourself even now?”
Even now when everyone has said otherwise? Even now when this is what your parents sacrificed for you to achieve? Even now when no one else will actually know? Even now when you don’t know how long it will take to materialize?
Seems tough right?
But we’d be surprised to discover how courageous we actually are and how much fight that’s within us.
Do you remember the times when life stripped you of your joy, cheated you of your hopes and dreams, and lied its way into your heart only to shatter it? I know I do. But just like you, even though I was defeated for a moment, we are here striving to live. We were courageous and we chose to live, to believe, and to smile.
Remember when you were misunderstood and wronged but chose to trust and to wait that the truth would be revealed. Remember when they were gossiping and slandering and you chose to be quiet. Remember when at the end of their tirade they asked you, “You agree right?” and you gave a simple, “No.”
Remember how your legs were shaking and your hands wet with sweat as you tiptoed to the front of the small room. Your head was downcast and your voice came out as a trickle. But you stood there and confessed, “I’m an alcoholic.”
Remember when your peers laughed at you and ridiculed you because you wouldn’t join them as they teased girls and humiliated the “uncool.”
Remember all those times and let them become the grounds on which you continue to build.
Courage is alive and dynamic. Therefore, even the simplest of interactions of our principles, virtues, and expectations have with courage will demand progress or retreat. It’s not courageous to stand against courage.
It’s about time we give in to courage and allow it to wield the weapons of love, loyalty, integrity, faith, and encouragement that might be dormant in our lives.
Whenever I think about the hypocrite I might be when it comes to my writing or start to meditate on how exposed I feel, I just think about you who I’ve never met. I think about the encouragement you might receive, the empathy you might feel.
Courage, as much as it is a seed that grows from within us, is in fact a seed planted and watered from outside. Courage doesn’t come by us willing ourselves to be bolder. It doesn’t happen by us gritting our teeth and running into walls.
Courage is awakened when our hearts are disturbed. Courage is our response to injustice and our desire to make it right. It can be the injust distribution of wealth, power, kindness, attention, or love.The means in which they transpire can take any form. It looks like corrutpion, corporate politics, bullying, racism, oppression of speech, rape, outright neglect, false media, or shoddy homes. Whatever it might be, it makes our hearts restless and angry. It even goes as far as making us blind to rationale and reason. Why else would someone jump into a burning building, move to a foreign country, quit a high-paying job, join the side being ostracized, or welcome the orphans?
Courage is not meant to be pulled from somewhere inside of us. It’s meant to be found in the things we treasure in this life. The absence of courage is life’s green light telling us to go searching for something worth being courageous for. Because when we find it, I’m certain we won’t have an easy time telling courage to stand in the back.
On this blank canvas that is life, what kind of story will you have told with the ink of courage? I hope that one day, I’ll feel the ripples of your boldness.
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