I’ve been thinking a lot about courage.
Maybe because right now I really want some. Need some.
I’m not talking about bravery. I think there’s a sublte difference. I’m not talking about a soldier or a hero. I’m seeking plain old every day personal courage.
It’s a word that seems to have lost its zing. It pops up in clichés and platitudes so frequently that it’s meaning seems a bit diluted. I understand it to mean persistence in the face of physical or mental adversity. Not just pluck to do a one off gesture. For me it seems to suggest endurance and perseverance.
(There is also moral courage – which I will write about one day.)
When I had chemotherapy 7 years ago people would often remark that I had great courage. It felt very strange to hear this. Because, from where I was sitting, I didn’t have any other option but to endure it. I didn’t feel particularly courageous at the time, in fact there were days when I was a complete wimp! It was just one of those things that happened to me and could have happened to anyone else. And I’ll go out on a limb and say that I think most people in the same situation would have fought and endured it too. It was a physical and mental challenge, but one that I almost had no choice in.
Similarly, people say giving birth takes courage. Yes, I suppose it does, but it is also usually our choice to have children. If we choose to do something that is most likely going to involve an experience of pain or risk, do we then applaud ourselves for being courageous enough to endure it?
So it’s made me think… would any of these situations have improved/worsened if I had more/less courage? And can it be called courage if I had no choice in it, or if I imposed it upon on myself?
I think the most courageous I have felt in my life has been in situations of where I’ve overcome a personal obstacle, usually in the shape of a huge emotional roadblock. It’s not a showy kind of courage, it’s more like an internal whisper. But it’s the courage I’m most proud of. Losing 45 kilos over two years (back in 2001-2003) was something I felt took great courage for me personally. It represented a persistence to overcome my emotional demons day after day. It was a long hard struggle. And since then there have been a number of times where I have pulled myself up out of other dark places and made the decision to keep trying again.
This is the kind of courage I need right now. Courage to overcome the things that are holding me back from living the life I want to live. Courage to persist with my daily, hourly, minutely inner struggles. Courage to keep going. One foot in front of the other.
This is why I like this quote so much:
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” ~ Mary Anne Radmacher
Some more quotes about courage:
“Life shrinks and expands according to one’s courage.” ~ Anais Nin
“With courage you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be compassionate, and the wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation of integrity.” ~ Keshavan Nair
“Without courage we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.” ~ Maya Angelou
“The bravest thing you can do when you are not brave is to profess courage and act accordingly.” ~ Corra Harris
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you great strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” – Lao Tse
“Courage is to feel the daily daggers of relentless steel and keep on living.” ~ Douglas Malloch
“Courage is being scared to death… and saddling up anyway.” ~ John Wayne
* “Trumpet Shell” – Photo used with kind permission of M. Arch and copyright of Sanctum.