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What is Courage?

Courage may emerge from that long held dream or perhaps burst out of you in a moment you are suddenly called to rise.

A group of hospice caretakers compiled a list of the top five regrets of people who were facing the last days of life.

They were:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Two of these regrets mention the word courage and the other three speak to making significant life changes that require courage.I once heard a story about Maya Angelou hosting a dinner party in her home when she heard someone across the room tell an offensive joke. She interrupted the dinner party and asked that person to leave her home. She said that she would not tolerate that poison around her. It takes courage to stand up for what you believe in.

What is courage?

Courage is defined as the state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, difficulties,and fear with confidence and resolution.

For me, this definition raised the question–what is behind courage,where does courage come from?

Passion was the first word I thought of, and yet, I knew it was even deeper.I once read a book which mentioned that courageous leaders have a potent weapon and it is the power of vision. Vision, defined as a picture of the future that produces passion,is perhaps a feeling or realization of a spiritual presence which is constantly striving to express in and through us.

We can recognize vision when we hear the speech of John F. Kennedy in 1961 when he shared details about going to the moon. He spoke with such enthusiasm, vigor,and detail of things that didn’t even exist yet. He had a vision which led the way.

Martin Luther King Jr had a DREAM and he came alive when he spoke of it. He wasn’t going to stop speaking and standing for this vision.

Joan of Arc had a vision.“Act and God will act,”she said.

Wilbur and Orville Wright courageously announced the “age of the flying machine”and failed for ten years before they made history with their vision in 1903.

Imprisoned for 27 years,Nelson Mandela never gave up and in 1994 South Africa held the first multi-racial election.

Then there’s Emmeline Pankhurst who was focused on winning women the vote. She said, “Trust in God–SHE will provide.”

Rosa Parks said, “I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be other people would be also free.”

In 2012,a gunman shot Malala, a Pakistani activist for female education,and she said,“I don’t want to be remembered as the girl who was shot. I want to be remembered as the girl who stood up.”

When we think of courage, we tend to think of those whose faces we know so well; however, we all possess the face of courage.

Gearing up for battle, whether it be in uniform to fight fires or terrorism, can be just as courageous as making the decision not to fight, instead choosing your vision of love and peace. Courage can be standing up to bullies. In 2017, there were three men who confronted a man who was yelling anti-Muslim insults at two women on a commuter train in Portland, Oregon–two of those men were killed. They were courageous to speak up for what they believed in, to stand up for another. If you have ever been hurt, it takes courage to open your heart and love again.

Courage is lending your heart and hands to comfort and care for someone. We might catch an image of Mother Teresa, Harriet Tubman,or Florence Nightingale.

It takes courage to look deep within and be honest with ourselves.

It takes courage to apologize.

It takes courage to start again.

It takes courage to take responsibility.

It takes courage to stand alone.

Courage may emerge from that long held dream or perhaps burst out of you in a moment you are suddenly called to rise. The root of the word courage is “cor” which is the Latin word for heart. In its original form,the word meant to “speak one’s mind while telling all one’s heart.”

My sense is that the subject of courage touches us at our deepest core, speaking to the very essence of what it means to be alive.

When I looked up suggestions to cultivate courage, I found these ideas: try new things, avoid comparing, embrace risks, take the road less traveled, frame your fear differently,and keep going.

Each suggestion spoke to this idea of moving ahead in spite of the fear.

Courage is acting in spite of fear.

Fear is stagnant.

Courage is alive–in you. xo -a

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