It’s been on my heart to write about courage. It’s such a big topic, and it is so personal to our own stories that it is hard to define. I did some research (meaning, I asked my Facebook friends and Googled “courage”), and decided to use an article published in Psychology Today, by Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D. as a starting point.
Greenberg writes that there are six attributes of courage. I don’t know if that is true. There might be 50 or there might be two. I came up with four on my own (which I’ll cover in a later post). But since this is Dr. Greenberg’s area of expertise, and litigators are not known for their courage, I will take her six attributes and put them in the context of 1) my biases and 2) my faith. So you can hit delete now if you don’t want to read it.
The first attribute is feeling fear but choosing to act in spite of this fear. One of my research associates (Facebook friends) confirmed that this is what courage means to her: “Courage does not mean that you are not afraid. Courage is doing what needs to be done despite the fact that you are afraid.”
I’ve witnessed this in many people. In fact, I’ve witnessed this in my Facebook friend. She has been afraid at various times in her life, and she’s acted anyway. She knows she is afraid, and yet she refuses to let fear paralyze her. She’s a great inspiration to me.
Another person I know, an 18-year-old man, has had to confront his own medical conditions and deal with wobbly medical treatment that didn’t provide a sound diagnosis, all while trying to deal with the hell that can be high school. He was afraid. But he acted in a most courageous way. He is a model for me.
My nephew Joshua is also a model. He has been afraid, and has had some tough life circumstances that most 12-year-old kids should not have to face. And he perseveres. Recently he seemed down, and I asked him what was wrong. He said, “I am afraid.” We discussed the issue a bit more. How many 12-year-old boys will tell you they are afraid?? Despite fears that relate to abandonment, family changes and educational challenges, he leans in. He keeps going, engaging the challenges of seeing his beloved grandmother and great-grandmother fight against disease and disability. He chooses to compete in Special Olympics, even in new sports that are unfamiliar to him. He has courage.
All of these non-biblical people have something in common with a guy named Jesus. He was afraid in the Garden of Gethsemane, so afraid he asked for God to remove the burden of his fate, but also said that if it was his Father’s will, he would submit. There’s not much greater fear, I imagine, than that of being nailed to a cross to endure a suffocating (literally) death.
His cousin John was cut from the same cloth. He really pissed off the authorities. John had the audacity to condemn the marriage of King Herod and his wife Herodias (who was previously the wife of King Herod’s brother). Talk about family drama. Herodias was none too pleased, and persuaded her daughter to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. King Herod delivered. John had to be afraid of standing up to an authority whose moral compass was obviously compromised to begin with. But he acted anyway.
Jesus, John, and the models I mention above have something in common. They are not afraid of being afraid.
A sure sign that someone lacks courage is when they claim to have no fear about anything. Bull. It’s not cowardly to be afraid, and it is courageous to say, “I’m afraid, but that fear is not going to lead me around on a leash.”
So, what are you afraid of being afraid of?
Are you afraid to actually open the credit card bill and confront your own bad financial habits? That’s OK. Be afraid. But admit you are afraid, and then rip open the envelope and see the truth. Like a bandage that has been on too long, it will hurt. But it will be worth it.
Are you afraid of confronting a family member (whether it be to have an uncomfortable conversation about his bad habits, or to apologize for your own past behavior)? That’s fine. Be afraid. And then send an email asking to meet for coffee.
What are you afraid that you are afraid of?
Name it, own it, and with that fear still in your heart, act.