[do action=”vfdictstart” title=”courage”/] [do action=”vfdictitem” contents=”the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear;”/] [do action=”vfdictitem” contents=”to have the courage of one’s convictions, to act in accordance with one’s beliefs, esp. in spite of criticism.”/] [do action=”vfdictend”/]
The ability to face difficulty, danger, or pain without fear.
Courage is affliction borne cheerfully.
Courage is that firmness of spirit and swell of soul which meets danger without fear. Bravery is daring and impetuous courage, like that of one who has the reward continually in view, and displays his courage in daring acts. Fortitude has often been styled “passive courage,” and consists in the habit of encountering danger and enduring pain with a steadfast and unbroken spirit. Valor is courage exhibited in war, and cannot be applied to single combats; it is never used figuratively. Intrepidity is firm, unshaken courage. Gallantry is adventurous courage, which courts danger with a high and cheerful spirit. A man may show courage, fortitude, or intrepidity in the common pursuits of life, as well as in war. Valor, bravery, and gallantry are displayed in the contest of arms. Valor belongs only to battle; bravery may be shown in single combat; gallantry may be manifested either in attack or defense; but in the latter ease, the defense is usually turned into an attack.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” author=”Ambrose Redmoon”/]
Social courage is defined by many different standards, but the term is usually referred to when civilians stand up against something that is deemed unjust and evil, knowing that the consequences of their action might lead to their death, injury, or any other negative effect. Standing up for people who can’t defend themselves is an example of Social Courage.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”The courage of life is often a less dramatic spectacle than the courage of a final moment; but it is no less a magnificent mixture of triumph and tragedy.” author=”John F. Kennedy”/]
Courage, also known as bravery, will, intrepidity, and fortitude, is the ability to confront fear, pain, risk/danger, uncertainty, or intimidation. “Physical courage” is courage in the face of physical pain, hardship, or threat of death, while “moral courage” is the courage to act rightly in the face of popular opposition, shame, scandal, or discouragement.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Fear and courage are brothers.” author=”Proverb”/]
What is Courage?
Courage is not something that comes from flying to your heart in moments of need or in emergencies. Courage is not something that can be handed over to you through lessons either. Courage is a way of life. It is as much a habit as anything else. Like getting up and brushing your teeth in the morning, or drinking coffee. It’s a matter of routine more than anything else. People tend to speak of courage only in terms of deeds. For instance, they might speak of courage in the battlefield. Soldiers and policemen are supposed to show courage. Or they might refer to courage in the face of devastation. Flood-affected people or earthquake victims must show courage.
However, courage is not merely the name you can give to your putting up with a bad situation. After all, in a bad situation, there is not much one can do expect cope with whatever strength and forbearance you can muster.
But though we don’t notice it, a lot of courage is part of our routines. The man who gets into a blocked sewer shows courage. The man who tills the land, not knowing whether he will have a good monsoon shows courage. The woman who resists the temptation to lavish goodies on her children shows courage. The child who breaks a leg on the football field but goes back to the game later shows courage. The student who is bent on following his dreams shows courage. The real test of courage is in our daily lives. Or should be. The courage to speak the truth. All the time. Because lies are the biggest and most obvious sort of cowardice that all of us hide behind.
The courage to speak our mind and not stay silent, simply because we are afraid that other people might not agree with us. Of course, there will be conflicting views. And of course, conflict is unpleasant. But not speaking your mind can lead to much worse unpleasantness. The courage to stand up for what we believe in. The courage to follow public rules and laws and insist that other people follow them too. The courage to resist those who take easy ways out, which only leads to more corruption and red tape in our social systems. Mark Twain has said, Courage is not the absence of fear. It is acting in spite of it. The sign of a courageous person, then, is someone who is feels, fear, recognizes fear and still goes on to do what he or she believes is right.
In 2001 Pat Tillman, 27, turned down a $9 million, five-year offer sheet from the Super Bowl champions, the St. Louis Rams, out of loyalty to the Cardinals. He also passed on a three-year, $3 .6 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the Army in May 2002 in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Tillman was a member of the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, based at Fort Lewis, Wash. The battalion was involved in Operation Mountain Storm in southeastern Afghanistan, part of the U.S. campaign against fighters of the al-Qaida terror network and the former Taliban government along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. He was killed one night while serving his country.
Tillman had played four seasons with the Cardinals, winning league-wide respect as a smart and hard-hitting, if somewhat small and slow, defensive safety before he enlisted with his younger brother Kevin. Tillman set a Cardinals record with 224 tackles in 2000 and warmed up for that year’s training camp by competing in a 70.2-mile triathlon in June. Tillman, who at 5 feet II inches tall and 200 pounds was considered undersized for his position, nevertheless distinguished himself by his intelligence and appetite for rugged play. As a linebacker at Arizona State University, he was the Pacific 10 Conference’s defensive player of the year in 1997. He graduated summa cum laude in 3.5 academic years as an academic All-American, earning a degree in marketing with 3.84 grade-point average. Pat Tillman is an example of a man who had everything going for him but was not satisfied with the fact that he had not done something special for his country. He wanted to be a hero for his country and not just sit back and let others have that honor. He thought of others and placed them before himself.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Courage is to feel the daily daggers of relentless steel and keep on living.” author=”Douglas Malloch”/]
Courage[do action=”vfquote” quote=”One summer morning as Ray Blankenship was preparing his breakfast, he gazed out the window, and saw a small girl being swept along in the rain-flooded drainage ditch beside his Andover, Ohio, home. Blankenship knew that farther downstream, the ditch disappeared with a roar underneath a road and then emptied into the main culvert. Ray dashed out the door and raced along the ditch, trying to get ahead of the foundering child. Then he hurled himself into the deep, churning water. Blankenship surfaced and was able to grab the child’s arm. They tumbled end over end. Within about three feet of the yawning culvert, Ray’s free hand felt something–possibly a rock– protruding from one bank. He clung desperately, but the tremendous force of the water tried to tear him and the child away. ”If I can just hang on until help comes,” he thought. He did better than that. By the time fire-department rescuers arrived, Blankenship had pulled the girl to safety. Both were treated for shock. On April 12, 1989, Ray Blankenship was awarded the Coast Guard’s Silver Lifesaving Medal. The award is fitting, for this selfless person was at even greater risk to himself than most people knew. Ray Blankenship can’t swim.” author=”Paul Harvey”/]
How You Can Build Courage
There is, very likely, something you have wanted to do for years – try something new, ask a girl out, move to another city, start your own business, apply for that better position, go after the big account. Whatever it is you should do it. Remember, life is not a practice run. This is it. Be courageous! Go for it! Relative to the whole scheme of things, your life span could be compared to lighting a candle and immediately blowing it out. In other words, life is short – very short. Missing out on any of the joys life offers is a tragedy. If your life is being controlled by your fears, you are most certainly cheating yourself. Courage is the mental muscle that conquers fear. Like all muscles, the more you use them the stronger they become. Courage is not something you are born with, it must be developed. Individuals who fail to develop courage, remain confined in mental prisons and face each day as victims of their own fear.
Have the courage to make your plans so big that you know you will fail without Divine assistance.
Courage is that firmness of spirit and swell of soul which meets danger without fear. Bravery is daring and impetuous courage, like that of one who has the reward continually in view, and displays his courage in daring acts. Fortitude has often been styled “passive courage,” and consists in the habit of encountering danger and enduring pain with a steadfast and unbroken spirit. Valor is courage exhibited in war, and cannot be applied to single combats; it is never used figuratively. Intrepidity is firm, unshaken courage. Gallantry is adventurous courage, which courts danger with a high and cheerful spirit. A man may show courage, fortitude, or intrepidity in the common pursuits of life, as well as in war. Valor, bravery, and gallantry are displayed in the contest of arms. Valor belongs only to battle; bravery may be shown in single combat; gallantry may be manifested either in attack or defense; but in the latter ease, the defense is usually turned into an attack.
Courage, also known as bravery, will, intrepidity, and fortitude, is the ability to confront fear, pain, risk/danger, uncertainty, or intimidation. “Physical courage” is courage in the face of physical pain, hardship, or threat of death, while “moral courage” is the courage to act rightly in the face of popular opposition, shame, scandal, or discouragement.
The Tao Te Ching states that courage is derived from love and explains: “One of courage, with audacity, will kill. One of courage, but gentle, spares life.”
In Roman Catholicism, courage is one of the four cardinal virtues, along with prudence, justice, and temperance. (“Cardinal” in this sense means “pivotal”; it is one of the four cardinal virtues because to possess any virtue, a person must be able to sustain it in the face of difficulty.)
Civil courage (sometimes also referred to as “Social courage”) is defined by many different standards, but the term is usually referred to when civilians stand up against something that is deemed unjust and evil, knowing that the consequences of their action might lead to their death, injury, or any other negative effect.
How to Build Courage
New research suggests courage is driven by personality traits, self-efficacy, hope, resilience, values, beliefs and social forces.
How does a fire-fighter talk himself into entering a burning building? How does an anxious person pluck up the courage to introduce themselves to a stranger? How does a severely depressed individual find the strength to go through the motions of another day? All require courage, but courage is an elusive quality. Continuing the series on positive psychology we look at the components that make up courage and how these can be developed.
Courageous character traits
The following three character traits are thought important in courage:
- Openness to experience: This trait is associated with both divergent thinking, e.g. brainstorming, and the related idea of creativity. Being courageous, then, is all about having options, and in order to generate those options you need to be creative. How can it be increased? Techniques which may help increase divergent thinking are brainstorming, keeping a journal, free writing and mind mapping.
- Conscientiousness: the conscientious are dependable people who feel a sense of duty towards themselves and others. They get the job done. How can it be increased? One way to increase conscientiousness may be to commit to more social institutions such as marriage, work, family or other role in the community. This suggestion comes from research that has found conscientiousness increases with age, which is also associated with greater work, family and social commitments.
- Core self-evaluation: these include traits like emotional stability and internal locus of control. An internal locus of control refers to a feeling of control over situations. How can it be increased? Increasing locus of control can be achieved through cognitive therapy. Central to cognitive therapy is the idea that our outlook on life is fundamentally affected by how we explain what happens to us and others – the attributions we use. Changing these attributions can lead to changes in core self-evaluations.
Courageous states of mind
The following four states of mind are, though, more open to adjustment and may be better bets for increasing courage in the moment:
- Self-efficacy: essentially means confidence in yourself and your ability to achieve desired outcomes. How can it be increased? Mastering a skill and reinterpreting current situations.
- Means efficacy: this is the belief that the tools available can do the job. How can it be increased? They say a bad workman blames his tools – so a good workmen sees potential in his tools to complete the job. Really believing you can use what you’ve got is half the battle.
- State hope: believing the task is possible and seeing a way of carrying it out at the time at which it needs to be done. How can it be increased? Like locus of control, state hope can be increased using cognitive therapy. At heart, the idea is to change the attributions we make.
- Resilience: this is bounce-back-ability. It’s also having the belief that should the inevitable problems arise, you’ll be able to overcome them. How can it be increased? Research suggests resilience may be predicted by positive emotions. Generating amusement, interest or any other positive emotion is likely to increase levels of resilience. Essentially, it may be possible to laugh off the fear often experienced when being courageous.
Convictions and social forces
- Inner convictions: these include independence, selflessness, integrity and honor. These types of beliefs can all have important effects on behavior in the face of fear. How can it be increased? Inner convictions can come from a variety of sources such as philosophy, societal beliefs or religion.
- Social forces: really important, some might even argue this is the most important. People look at how other’s react to a situation, then think how they should act in relation to other people. How can it be increased? Essentially courage is socially contagious. The practical advice from this is simple: to increase your courage, hang out with courageous people.
In the 16th century, when given a task of invading a dangerous island with his troops, Spanish conquistador and leader, Hernan Cortes was concerned about the commitment of some of his men. After departing the boats and arriving on land, Cortes immediately ordered the ships burned. By burning his own boats, he was sending a clear message to his army – “There is no turning back – we will either succeed here or we die here.” Excuses for not committing were gone. Burn the Boats!
Ethics in Action: The Courage to Stand Up
By Mark S. Putnam
Standing up for your ethical principles takes courage. Courage is the ability to face danger, difficulty, uncertainty, or pain without being overcome by fear. When you see something happening in the workplace that just doesn’t seem right do you have the courage to stand-up and do something? What are you afraid of? Retribution, disapproval, your image, damaged relationships, or simply the unknown? Courage is about setting aside your fear and taking action for the good of yourself or someone else.
A firefighter courageously runs into a burning building because he or she is protecting life and property. Part of his courage comes from his duty to his job and community but the rest comes from a courageous instinct that kicks in. Although most ethical dilemmas at work aren’t a matter of life and death, the principle of standing up to protect someone’s rights as well as basic principles of honesty, moral virtue, and ethical behavior is a noble cause.
We need to have a sense of moral justice in our approach to unethical behavior so it disturbs something deep within our character when we see it.. But simply being offended by wrongdoing is not enough. Courage comes in confronting those feelings inside and taking action.
A courageous person is that one individual in a crowd of onlookers who actually steps out and does something. A young man named Kristopher Kime who was beaten to death while trying to rescue a woman during the Seattle Mardi Gras riots showed enormous courage. He probably had the same feelings of fear, shock, hesitation, and anger that you would experience in the midst of a street riot. But he did something extremely courageous by stepping out from the stunned crowd to save an innocent life. When you stand up for principles of goodness and virtue it may feel like a mob attack.
Human nature tells us that if nothing is ever said or done about bad behavior it will continue or get worse. Allowing things to “slide” will eventually take everything else for the same ride. Ethics without the component of courage to stand-up for it keeps it in the realm of heady philosophy and out reality.
So, what does courage look like from 9 to 5 in the office? There are no crowds of onlookers or T.V. cameras to record your courage or pass judgment. It’s usually just you and customer, boss, or vendor face to face or on the other end of the phone. The first level of action is your initial reaction. Saying something like, “Sorry, I just can’t ethically do it that way, but I think another way would be…” puts on the brakes right away and points to an alternative solution. This is a courageous, ethical reflex. In order for this quick response to become a natural reflex, you need to be prepared in your mind and character and be ready for a response.
The second level is to approach the person with whom you have a problem. This is NOT easy. Most of us don’t naturally confront people. To most of us, the courage to actually go up and talk face-to-face takes a superhuman Kristopher Kime level of courage. Your voice trembles, stomach hurts, beads of sweat roll down your face. It certainly FEELS like a life or death struggle. But remember, courage is about facing difficulty without being overcome by fear.
The third level of action is to find help. Especially when someone else’s rights or property are at play you need to take things to the next level. Rather than think of yourself as a “tattle-tale,” consider yourself a courageous “change-agent for good.” Again, this is not easy. Be ready. Having someone fight your battle for you may be harder than fighting it yourself. You still have to face your coworkers AND you lose most (or all) control over the path to a solution.
Principles of decency, integrity and what is good and right are not to be treaded upon lightly. Ethics is more than just following a set of rules, it is a part of our deeply-held belief system that makes-up the core of our character. It is worth protecting. It is worth stepping out in courage and making personal sacrifices. Whether you think you share the courageous qualities of a hero or not…rest assured that you do.
THE BRAVE THREE HUNDRED
Adapted from James Baldwin
The famous battle at the narrow Pass of Thermopylae took place in 480 B.C., when Xerxes led a Persian army into Greece. Even though they were defeated at Thermopylae, the Spartans’ heroic stand against overwhelming odds inspired the Greeks in later resistance and forever made Sparta’s name synonymous with courage. All of Greece was in danger. A mighty army, led by Xerxes, the great king of Persia, had come from the east. It was marching along the seashore, and in a few days would be in Greece. Xerxes had sent messengers into every city and state, demanding that they send him water and earth as symbols that the land and the sea were his. The Greeks refused, and resolved to defend their freedom against the invaders. And so there was a great stir throughout all the land. The Greeks armed themselves and hurried to go out and drive back their foe. There was only one way by which the Persian army could go into Greece on that side, and that was through a narrow pass between the mountains and the sea. It was called the pass at Thermopylae, a word which meant “hot gates” because of the hot springs nearby. This pass was guarded by Leonidas, the king of the Spartans, with only a few thousand troops. They were greatly outnumbered by the Persian army, but they felt confident. They had positioned themselves in the narrowest part of the pass, where a few men armed with long spears could hold back an entire company. The first Persian wave of attack started toward the pass at dawn. The Spartan scouts reported that there were so many troops, their arrows would darken the sun like a cloud. “So much the better,” Leonidas said. “We can fight better in the shade. ” The arrows came down, but the Greeks’ shields deflected them, and their long spears held back the Persians who pressed into the pass. The invaders attacked again and again, but each time they were repulsed with terrible losses. At last Xerxes sent forward his best troops, known as the Ten Thousand Immortals, but even they fared no better against the determined Greeks. After two days of attacks, Leonidas still held the pass. But that night a man was brought to Xerxes’ camp. He was a Greek who knew the local terrain well, and he was ready to sell a secret: the pass was not the only way through. A hunters’ footpath wound the long way around, to a trail along the spine of the mountain. It was held by only a handful of Greeks. They could be easily routed, and then Xerxes could attack the Spartan army from the rear. The treacherous plan worked. The men guarding the secret trail were surprised and beaten. A few managed to escape in time to warn Leonidas. The Greeks knew that if they did not abandon the pass at once, they would be trapped. But Leonidas also knew he must delay Xerxes longer while the Greek cities prepared their defenses. He made his decision. He ordered almost all of his troops to slip through the mountains and back to their cities, where they would be needed. He kept his royal guard of three hundred Spartans as well as a few other troops, and prepared to defend the pass to the end. Xerxes and his army came forward. The Spartans stood fast, but one by one they fell. When their spears broke, they stood side by side, fighting with swords or daggers or only their fists. All day long they kept the Persian army at bay. But when the sun went down, there was not one Spartan left alive. Where they had stood was only a heap of the slain, all bristled over with spears and arrows. Xerxes had taken the pass, but at a cost of thousands of men and a delay of several days. The time cost him dearly. The Greek navy was able to gather its forces, and soon afterward it managed to drive Xerxes back to Asia. Many years later a monument was erected at the pass of Thermopylae, inscribed in memory of the courageous stand of a few in defense of their homeland. That small monument still stands today in Thermopylae.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Courage is being afraid but going on anyhow.” author=”Dan Rather”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared.” author=”Edward Vernon Rickenbacker”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Courage can’t see around corners, but goes around them anyway.” author=”Mignon McLaughlin”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Sometimes the biggest act of courage is a small one.” author=”Lauren Raffo”/]
What is Courage?
Imagine you are in this situation:
“I was sitting on a bus next to an attractive young woman who was reading a magazine. There was a guy sitting opposite me, who was kind of Neanderthal [and starts hassling the woman sat next to me].
Anyway, all the passengers on the bus were aware of this. The bus stops. He gets out of the doors – the thug. He walks off down the platform, we’re all quite happy he’s gone. One of the passengers flips off the thug as he is leaving. The doors have closed, by the way, when he does this. And then the disaster happens – the doors reopen.
The thug runs back in. He’s six foot three, his muscles are so big they’re flexing against the bus walls, and he just starts beating the hell out of this fellow. And actually when you see physical violence or are on the receiving end of it, it’s very very nasty.
His fist went into the side of his head, blood came out, another fist, the guy goes down on the bus floor, and the thug walks off very happy with himself. And I did nothing. The carriage was pretty full. But none of us did anything. It was terrible.”
This story is from BBC News and happened to one of their reporters. And although it is a relatively extreme example, most of us have seen something comparable in public. And most people would also agree that it would take considerable courage to get involved in a situation like this.
But what if the person getting involved is a police officer, or a person trained in these situations? Does that make them less courageous? What, then, is courage?
Writers and philosophers have long been interested in this question. One of the best, and most succinct, suggestions comes from Ernest Hemingway; that courage is “grace under pressure”.
A group of students at Yale University and the United States Air Force Academy were asked what courage is. They came up with a long list of items which were then statistically grouped into the following three categories or types of courage:
- Self-focused response to affect and external circumstance. This category included: ‘enduring a tough situation’, ‘remaining focused in a high-stress environment’ and ‘does not give in to fear when making decisions’.
- Non-physical/social oriented acts. This category included: ‘stands up to unjust social practices because of what one thinks right’, ‘maintains honesty no matter others’ opinions’ and ‘demonstrates integrity’.
- Selfless sacrifice/risk. This category included items mostly meaning: ‘risks to protect others’.
Hypocrisy, as we have been told many times, is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.
The various virtues — courage, compassion, generosity, and so on — still ring well in the secular ear. But the secular world’s interest in the meaning behind these positive sounding words is minimal. It is enamored with sparkle and apathetic about substance.
“Thou shall not be judgmental” is one of the cardinal canons of political correctness. Political correctness, of course, has little regard for the principle of non-contradiction, and therefore allows people to judge certain individuals, precipitously and decisively, whenever it represents a political advantage.
St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas warned against counterfeit virtues. They made it easy, however, for us to distinguish a true virtue from its imposter. All moral virtues, they explained, flow from love. If love is not present, neither is virtue.
The ancient root of the word “courage” is cor, which in Latin refers to the heart, a symbol of love. “Courage” without love is simply not courage. Another Latin word, fortitudo (from which we derive the cardinal virtue of fortitude), brings out the strength that courage must possess. But courage must possess both strength and love at the same time.
Everyone wants to be seen as having courage these days, but the term, unfortunately, has been grossly politicized and, as a result, thoroughly trivialized. Praising another person for being courageous is always complimentary. But is it always justifiable? Does it attest to love in action? Or is it merely an opportunity to promote a cause by canonizing a hero?
A lot of people will stick to their guns, so to speak; they will go ahead and do what they think is right under stressful circumstances. But stubborn, insensitive, fanatical people do the same. We must be more circumspect about our use of the word “courage.” “Courage” without humility is self-serving, reckless, and dangerous.
Courage poses another problem because people, by and large, regard it as the most dramatic, dazzling, and desirable of all the virtues. No one, at the present time, is giving out awards for humility. We have no best-seller entitled Profiles of Humility or The Humility To Be. This low-key virtue falls under the radar. It lacks pizzazz. Nonetheless, humility is the most important and most elementary of all the virtues, indeed, the “Mother of all Virtues.” “Courage” without humility is self-serving, reckless, and dangerous. Another problem with courage is that people believe that it is unusual. Therefore, any demonstration of courage deserves a special gala and an award presentation. Yet courage is as common as are love and goodness. Therefore, it is an everyday occurrence, expressed in a myriad of non-award-winning ways between family members, neighbors, and even strangers.
Courage is a beautiful virtue. But it is the one that is most publicly celebrated, and therein lies its danger. In the hands of the politically oriented, courage can easily be bent out of shape and used in this distorted form for political purposes. What we need to remember, above all, is that true virtue is personal. It belongs to and fulfills the virtuous human person and therefore does not require any public accolade.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” author=”Dorothy Bernard”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Courage is knowing what not to fear.” author=”Plato”/]
I am hurt, but I am not slaine;
I’ll lie me down and bleed a while,
And then I’ll rise and fight again.
-English Folk Song about Sir Andrew Barton a Scottish privateer.
Courage doesn’t mean not being afraid. In fact, in many situations that might qualify as stupidity. Courage means being afraid and doing the right thing anyway.
- Will your second grader have the courage to admit she trampled the neighbor’s prize lilies?
- Will your fourth grader have the courage to stand up for a smaller child against the playground bully?
- Will your sixth grader have the courage to listen to jazz when the other kids are into rap?
- Will your eighth grader have the courage to refuse to cheat on the test, even though the other kids are all doing so and his score will look worse by comparison?
- Will your tenth grader have the courage to refuse the sexual advances of an intimidating teacher?
- Will your 12th grader insist that the drunk driver stop the car and let him out, despite the taunts and dares of his friends?
Parents of toddlers and preschoolers often worry about their children’s fears of thunderstorms or merry-go-rounds, but in our culture, courage is usually moral, rather than physical, and our children are tested constantly.
Of course, there are times when kids need your help to summon up their physical courage: when your toddler is frightened of riding the ferris wheel with you, or your five year old is afraid of the dark, or your seven year old doesn’t want to get on a horse, or your nine year old doesn’t feel ready for sleepovers. But handling these frightening situations is pretty straight-forward:
- Don’t push kids to take risks they don’t feel ready for. They can learn to horseback ride next year.
- Stay calm yourself, and empathize with her feelings.
- Communicate that you will keep her safe.
- Help your child to problem solve. Would it help if he knew he could call you from the sleepover? Could he start getting to know the horse at first by grooming it, rather than climbing up into the saddle?
- Encourage your child to turn his fear into excitement. Scientists — and thrill seekers — tell us they’re related.
Moral courage is more complicated. Luckily, it isn’t something we’re born with. Courage is something we can develop, cultivate, learn how to summon up, by trial and error, by facing scary situations, choosing what’s right, and finding out it works.
Moral Courage[do action=”vfquote” quote=”The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.” author=”Martin Luther King, Jr.”/]
The good and bad news about moral courage is that your child’s performance in difficult situations depends mostly on you. Not on what you say, or drill into your child, about what’s right and wrong. Those discussions are important so that kids clearly understand what’s right and wrong and why we make certain choices, but they aren’t what matters most.
Research confirms what we observe daily: most humans don’t always do what they know is right. Integrity cannot be taught. Whether your son or daughter will summon up the internal fortitude to do what’s right will depend on who he or she is as a person, and that, luckily, you can impact tremendously.
In fact, the little test below – about you — can accurately predict your child’s behavior.
- Do you tell the store clerk when she inadvertently gives you too much change?
- Can you admit to your child when you’re wrong?
- Do you speak up to the baseball coach and tell him that boy on the bench – the one you don’t know, who flubbed his last play – needs a chance to play, at least a little, in every game?
- Do you make it safe for your child to admit to you when she makes a mistake, even a big one? Or does she feel she needs to lie to you, ever?
- Do you support your child when she thinks an adult is wrong, and help her to make her case?
- What do you do when you discover your child took the Gameboy from the dentist’s office? Do you yourself ever take a magazine you like? Do you ever take pens, pads or other supplies from work?
- Do you tell your boss when you think she’s asking you to do something that borders on unethical?
- Do you ever lie about your child’s age to get the lower admission price?
- Do you regularly give some portion of your income to charity?
Is it hard to believe that this test can predict your child’s behavior? Researchers confirm that children learn what we do, not what we say.
So the first part of helping your child to develop moral courage is to develop your own.
The second, of course, is paying attention to all the teachable moments.
And the third is remembering that kids develop courage along with maturity, over time. Don’t take it too hard when your child doesn’t display the courage you’d like. Just having a parent who thinks about these things is taking her in the right direction. Give her time.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer.” author=”Ralph Waldo Emerson”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”A timid person is frightened before a danger, a coward during the time, and a courageous person afterward.” author=”Jean Paul Richter”/]
Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature,
nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.
Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.
Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits
in the presence of fate is courage undefeatable.
– Helen Keller
The Courage to Live Consciously
By Steve Pavlina
In our day-to-day lives, the virtue of courage doesn’t receive much attention. Courage is a quality reserved for soldiers, firefighters, and activists. Security is what matters most today. Perhaps you were taught to avoid being too bold or too brave. It’s too dangerous. Don’t take unnecessary risks. Don’t draw attention to yourself in public. Follow family traditions. Don’t talk to strangers. Keep an eye out for suspicious people. Stay safe.
But a side effect of overemphasizing the importance of personal security in your life is that it can cause you to live reactively. Instead of setting your own goals, making plans to achieve them, and going after them with gusto, you play it safe. Keep working at the stable job, even though it doesn’t fulfill you. Remain in the unsatisfying relationship, even though you feel dead inside compared to the passion you once had. Who are you to think that you can buck the system? Accept your lot in life, and make the best of it. Go with the flow, and don’t rock the boat. Your only hope is that the currents of life will pull you in a favorable direction.
No doubt there exist real dangers in life you must avoid. But there’s a huge gulf between recklessness and courage. I’m not referring to the heroic courage required to risk your life to save someone from a burning building. By courage I mean the ability to face down those imaginary fears and reclaim the far more powerful life that you’ve denied yourself. Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of going broke. Fear of being alone. Fear of humiliation. Fear of public speaking. Fear of being ostracized by family and friends. Fear of physical discomfort. Fear of regret. Fear of success.
How many of these fears are holding you back? How would you live if you had no fear at all? You’d still have your intelligence and common sense to safely navigate around any real dangers, but without feeling the emotion of fear, would you be more willing to take risks, especially when the worst case wouldn’t actually hurt you at all? Would you speak up more often, talk to more strangers, ask for more sales, dive headlong into those ambitious projects you’ve been dreaming about? What if you even learned to enjoy the things you currently fear? What kind of difference would that make in your life?
Have you previously convinced yourself that you aren’t really afraid of anything… that there are always good and logical reasons why you don’t do certain things? It would be rude to introduce yourself to a stranger. You shouldn’t attempt public speaking because you don’t have anything to say. Asking for a raise would be improper because you’re supposed to wait until the next formal review. They’re just rationalizations though – think about how your life would change if you could confidently and courageously do these things with no fear at all.
What Is Courage?[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” author=”Ambrose Redmoon”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.” author=”Mark Twain”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.” author=”John Wayne”/]
I like the definitions of courage above, which all suggest that courage is the ability to get yourself to take action in spite of fear. The word courage derives from the Latin cor, which means “heart.” But true courage is more a matter of intellect than of feeling. It requires using the uniquely human part of your brain (the neocortex) to wrest control away from the emotional limbic brain you share in common with other mammals. Your limbic brain signals danger, but your neocortex reasons that the danger isn’t real, so you simply feel the fear and take action anyway. The more you learn to act in spite of fear, the more human you become. The more you follow the fear, the more you live like a lower mammal. So the question, “Are you a man or a mouse?” is consistent with human neurology.
Courageous people are still afraid, but they don’t let the fear paralyze them. People who lack courage will give into fear more often than not, which actually has the long-term effect of strengthening the fear. When you avoid facing a fear and then feel relieved that you escaped it, this acts as a psychological reward that reinforces the mouse-like avoidance behavior, making you even more likely to avoid facing the fear in the future. So the more you avoid asking someone out on a date, the more paralyzed you’ll feel about taking such actions in the future. You are literally conditioning yourself to become more timid and mouse-like.
Such avoidance behavior causes stagnation in the long run. As you get older, you reinforce your fear reactions to the point where it’s hard to even imagine yourself standing up to your fears. You begin taking your fears for granted; they become real to you. You cocoon yourself into a life that insulates you from all these fears: a stable but unhappy marriage, a job that doesn’t require you to take risks, an income that keeps you comfortable. Then you rationalize your behavior: You have a family to support and can’t take risks, you’re too old to shift careers, you can’t lose weight because you have “fat” genes. Five years… ten years… twenty years pass, and you realize that your life hasn’t changed all that much. You’ve settled down. All that’s really left now is to live out the remainder of your years as contently as possible and then settle yourself into the ground, where you’ll finally achieve total safety and security.
But there’s something else going on behind the scenes, isn’t there? That tiny voice in the back of your mind recalls that this isn’t the kind of life you wanted to live. It wants more, much more. It wants you to become far wealthier, to have an outstanding relationship, to get your body in peak physical condition, to learn new skills, to travel the world, to have lots of wonderful friends, to help people in need, to make a meaningful difference. That voice tells you that settling into a job where you sell widgets the rest of your life just won’t cut it. That voice frowns at you when you catch a glance of your oversized belly in the mirror or get winded going up a flight of stairs. It beams disappointment when it sees what’s become of your family. It tells you that the reason you have trouble motivating yourself is that you aren’t doing what you really ought to be doing with your life… because you’re afraid. And if you refuse to listen, it will always be there, nagging you about your mediocre results until you die, full of regrets for what might have been.
So how do you respond to this ornery voice that won’t shut up? What do you do when confronted by that gut feeling that something just isn’t right in your life? What’s your favorite way to silence it? Maybe drown it out by watching TV, listening to the radio, working long hours at an unfulfilling job, or consuming alcohol and caffeine and sugar.
But whenever you do this, you lower your level of consciousness. You sink closer towards an instinctive animal and move away from becoming a fully conscious human being. You react to life instead of proactively going after your goals. You fall into a state of learned helplessness, where you begin to believe that your goals are no longer possible or practical for you. You become more and more like a mouse, even trying to convince yourself that life as a mouse might not be so bad after all, since everyone around you seems to be OK with it. You surround yourself with your fellow mice, and on the rare occasions that you encounter a fully conscious human being, it scares the hell out of you to remember how much of your own courage has been lost.
Raise Your Consciousness[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” author=”Anais Nin”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Courage is the price that Life exacts for granting peace.” author=”Amelia Earhart”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ”I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” author=”Eleanor Roosevelt”/]
The way out of this vicious cycle is to summon your courage and confront that inner voice. Find a place where you can be alone with pen and paper (or computer and keyboard). Listen to that voice, and face up to what it’s telling you, no matter how difficult it is to hear. (The voice is just an abstraction – you may not hear words at all; instead you may see what you should be doing or simply feel it emotionally. But I’ll continue to refer to the voice for the sake of example.) This voice may tell you that your marriage has been dead for ten years, and you’re refusing to face it because you’re afraid of divorce. It may tell you that you’re afraid that if you start your own business, you’ll probably fail, and that’s why you’re staying at a job that doesn’t challenge you to grow. It may tell you that you’ve given up trying to lose weight because you’ve failed at it so many times, and you’re addicted to food. It may tell you that the friends you’re hanging out with now are incongruent with the person you want to be, and that you need to leave that reference group behind and build a new one. It may tell you that you always wanted to be an actor or writer, but you settled for a sales job because it seemed more safe and secure. It may tell you that you always wanted to help people in need, but you aren’t doing so in the way you should. It may tell you that you’re wasting your talents.
See if you can reduce that voice to just a single word or two. What is it telling you to do? Leave. Quit. Speak. Write. Dance. Act. Exercise. Sell. Switch. Move on. Let go. Ask. Learn. Forgive. Whatever you get from this, write it down. Perhaps you even have different words for each area of your life.
Now you have to take the difficult step of consciously acknowledging that this is what you really want. It’s OK if you don’t think it’s possible for you. It’s OK if you don’t see how you could ever have it. But don’t deny that you want it. You lower your consciousness when you do that. When you look at your overweight body, admit that you really want to be fit and healthy. When you light up that next cigarette, don’t deny that you want to be a nonsmoker. When you meet the potential mate of your dreams, don’t deny that you’d love to be in a relationship with that person. When you meet a person who seems to be at total peace with herself, don’t deny that you crave that level of inner peace too. Get yourself out of denial. Move instead to a place where you admit, “I really do want this, but I just don’t feel I currently have the ability to get it.” It’s perfectly OK to want something that you don’t think you can have. And you’re almost certainly wrong in concluding that you can’t have it. But first, stop lying to yourself and pretending you don’t really want it.
Move From Fear to Action, Even if You Expect to Fail[do action=”vfquote” quote=”When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.” author=”Ralph Waldo Emerson”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Most of our obstacles would melt away if, instead of cowering before them, we should make up our minds to walk boldly through them.” author=”Orison Swett Marden”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air.” author=”John Quincy Adams”/]
Now that you’ve acknowledged some things you’ve been afraid to face, how do you feel? You probably still feel paralyzed against taking action. That’s OK. While diving right in and confronting a fear head-on can be very effective, that may require more courage than you feel you can summon right now.
The most important point I want you to learn from this article is that real courage is a mental skill, not an emotional one. Neurologically it means using the thinking neocortex part of your brain to override the emotional limbic impulses. In other words, you use your human intelligence, logic, and independent will to overcome the limitations you’ve inherited as an emotional mammal.
Now this may make logical sense, but it’s far easier said than done. You may logically know you’re in no real danger if you get up on a stage and speak in front of 1000 people, but your fear kicks in anyway, and the imaginary threat prevents you from volunteering for anything like this. Or you may know you’re in a dead end job, but you can’t seem to bring yourself to say the words, “I quit.”
Courage, however, doesn’t require that you take drastic action in these situations. Courage is a learned mental skill that you must condition, just as weight training strengthens your muscles. You wouldn’t go into a gym for the first time and try to lift 300 pounds, so don’t think that to be courageous you must tackle your most paralyzing fear right away.
There are two methods I will suggest for building courage. The first approach is analogous to progressive weight training. Start with weights you can lift but which are challenging for you, and then progressively train up to heavier and heavier weights as you grow stronger. So tackle your smallest fears first, and progressively train up to bigger and bigger fears. Training yourself to lift 300 pounds isn’t so hard if you’ve already lifted 290. Similarly, speaking in front of an audience of 1000 people isn’t so tough once you’ve already spoken to 900.
So grab a piece of paper, and write down one of your fears that you’d like to overcome. Then number from one to ten, and write out ten variations of this fear, with number one being the least anxiety-producing and number ten being the most anxiety-producing. This is your fear hierarchy. For example, if you’re afraid of asking someone out on a date, then number one on your list might be going out to a public place and smiling at someone you find attractive (very mild fear). Number two might be smiling at ten attractive strangers in a single day. Number ten might be asking out your ideal date in front of all your mutual friends, when you’re almost certain you’ll be turned down flat and everyone in the room will laugh (extreme fear). Now start by setting a goal to complete number one on your list. Once you’ve had that success (and success in this case simply means taking action, regardless of the outcome), then move on to number two, and so on, until you’re ready to tackle number ten or you just don’t feel the fear is limiting you anymore. You may need to adjust the items on your list to make them practical for you to actually experience. And if you ever feel the next step is too big, then break it down into additional gradients. If you can lift 290 pounds but not 300, then try 295 or even 291. Take this process as gradually as you need to, such that the next step is a mild challenge for you but one you feel fairly confident you can complete. And feel free to repeat a past step multiple times if you find it helpful to prepare you for the next step. Pace yourself.
By following this progressive training process, you’ll accomplish two things. You’ll cease reinforcing the fear/avoidance response that you exhibited in the past. And you’ll condition yourself to act more courageously in future situations. So your feelings of fear will diminish at the same time that your expression of courage grows. Neurologically you’ll be weakening the limbic control over your actions while strengthening the neocortical control, gradually moving from unconscious mouse-like to conscious human-like behavior.
The second approach to building courage is to acquire additional knowledge and skill within the domain of your fear. Confronting fears head-on can be helpful, but if your fear is largely due to ignorance and lack of skill, then you can usually reduce or eliminate the fear with information and training. For example, if you’re afraid to quit your job and start your own business, even though you’d absolutely love to be in business for yourself, then start reading books and taking classes on how to start your own business. Spend an afternoon at your local library researching the subject, or do the research online. Join the local Chamber of Commerce and any relevant trade organizations in your field. Attend conferences. Build connections. Enlist the help of a mentor. Build your skill to the point where you start to feel confident that you could actually succeed, and this knowledge will help you act more boldly and courageously when you’re ready. This method is especially effective when a large part of your fear is due to the unknown. Often just reading a book or two on the subject will be enough to dispel the fear so that you’re able to take action.
These two methods are my personal favorites, but there are many additional ways to condition yourself to overcome fear, including neuro-linguistic programming, implosion therapy, systematic desensitization, and self-confrontation. You can research them via an online search engine if you wish to learn such methods and increase the number of fear-busting tools in your arsenal. Most of these can be easily self-administered (implosion therapy is the notable exception).
The exact process you use to build courage isn’t important. What’s important is that you consciously do it. Just as your muscles will atrophy if you don’t regularly stress them, your courage will atrophy if you don’t consistently challenge yourself to face down your fears. In the absence of this kind of conscious conditioning, you’ll automatically become weak in both body and mind. If you aren’t regularly exercising your courage, then you are strengthening your fear by default; there is no middle ground. Just as your muscles automatically atrophy from lack of use, so your courage will automatically decay in the absence of conscious conditioning.
Now this may sound overly gloomy, so here’s a positive way to look at it. Heavy weights can be a physical burden, but they are helpful tools to build strong muscles. You would not look at a 45-pound dumbbell and say, “Why must you be so heavy?” It is what it is. Heaviness is your thought, not an intrinsic property of the dumbbell itself. Similarly, do not look at the things you fear and say, “Why must you be so scary?” Fear is your reaction, not a property of the object of your anxiety.
Fear is not your enemy. It is a compass pointing you to the areas where you need to grow. So when you encounter a new fear within yourself, celebrate it as an opportunity for growth, just as you would celebrate reaching a new personal best with strength training.
Catch a Glimpse of Your Own Greatness[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads.” author=”Erica Jong”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”The highest courage is to dare to appear to be what one is.” author=”John Lancaster Spalding”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.” author=”Ralph Waldo Emerson”/]
So what do you do with your newly developed courage? Where will it lead you? The answer is that it will permit you to lead a far more fulfilling and meaningful life. You will truly begin living as a daring human being instead of a timid mouse. You will uncover and develop your greatest talents. You will begin living far more consciously and deliberately than you ever have before. Instead of reacting to events, you will proactively manufacture your own events.
Courage is something you can only truly experience alone. It is a private victory, not a public one. Summoning the courage to listen to your innermost desires is not a group activity and does not result from building a consensus with others. Kahlil Gibran writes in The Prophet, “The vision of one man lends not its wings to another man.” The purpose of your existence is yours alone to discover. No one on earth has lived through the exact same experiences you have, and no one thinks the exact same thoughts you do.
On the one hand, this is a lonely realization. Whether you live alone or enjoy the deepest intimacy with a loving partner, deep down you must still face the reality that your life is yours alone to live. You can choose to temporarily yield control of your life to others, whether it be to a company, a spouse, or simply to the pressures of daily living, but you can never give away your personal responsibility for the results. Whether you assume direct and conscious control over your life or merely react to events as they happen to you, you and you alone must bear the consequences.
If you commit to following the path of courage, you will ultimately be forced to confront what is perhaps the greatest fear of all – that you are far more powerful and capable than you initially realized, that your ultimate potential is far greater than anything you’ve experienced in your past, and that with this power comes tremendous responsibility. You may not be able to solve all the woes of this planet, but if you ever do commit yourself 100% to the fulfillment of your true potential, you can significantly impact the lives of many people, and that impact will ripple through the future for generations to come.
What is the difference between you and one of those legendary historical figures who did have such an impact? You both had many of the same fears. You both were born with talents in some areas and weaknesses in others. The only thing stopping you is fear, and the only thing that will get you past it is courage. What you do with your life isn’t up to your parents, your boss, or your spouse. It’s up to you and you alone.
Catching a glimpse of your own greatness can be one of the most unsettling experiences imaginable. And even more disturbing is the awareness of the tremendous challenges that await you if you accept it. Living consciously is not an easy path, but it is a uniquely human experience, and it requires making the committed decision to permanently let go of that mouse within you. Going after your greatest and most ambitious dreams and experiencing failure and disappointment, running butt up against your most humbling human limitations instead of living with a comfortable padding of potential – these fears are common to us all.
The first few times you encounter such fears, you may quickly retreat back to the illusory security of life as a mouse. But if you keep exercising your courage, you will eventually mature to the point where you can openly accept the challenges and responsibilities of life as a fully conscious human being. Continuing to live as a mouse will simply hold no more interest for you. You will acknowledge within the deepest recesses of your being, I have awakened to this incredible potential within me, and I accept what that will require of me. Whatever it costs me, whatever I must sacrifice to follow this path, bring it on. I’m ready. Even though you will still experience fear, you will recognize it for the illusion it is, and you will know how to use your human courage to face it down, such that fear will no longer have the power to stop you.
So Little Courage[do action=”vfquote” quote=”There was a test conducted by a university where 10 students were placed in a room. 3 lines of varying length were drawn on a card. The students were told to raise their hands when the instructor pointed to the longest line. But 9 of the students had been instructed beforehand to raise their hands when the instructor pointed to the second longest line. 1 student was the stooge. The usual reaction of the stooge was to put his hand up, look around, and realizing he was all alone, pull it back down. This happened 75% of the time, with students from grade school through high school. The researchers concluded that many would rather go along with the crowd even when that was opposed to their own personal belief.” author=”C. Swindoll”/]
The Courage To Stand Up For What You Believe In[do action=”vfquote” quote=”When I was a small boy, I attended church every Sunday at a big Gothic Presbyterian bastion in Chicago. The preaching was powerful and the music was great. But for me, the most awesome moment in the morning service was the offertory, when twelve solemn, frock-coated ushers marched in lock-step down the main aisle to receive the brass plates for collecting the offering. These men, so serious about their business of serving the Lord in this magnificent house of worship, were the business and professional leaders of Chicago. One of the twelve ushers was a man named Frank Loesch. He was not a very imposing looking man, but in Chicago he was a living legend, for he was the man who had stood up to Al Capone. In the prohibition years, Capone’s rule was absolute. The local and state police and even the Federal Bureau of Investigation were afraid to oppose him. But singlehandedly, Frank Loesch, as a Christina layman and without any government support, organized the Chicago Crime Commission, a group of citizens who were determined to take Mr. Capone to court and put him away. During the months that the Crime Commission met, Frank Loesch’s life was in constant danger. There were threats on the lives of his family and friends. But he never wavered. Ultimately he won the case against Capone and was the instrument for removing this blight from the city of Chicago. Frank Loesch had risked his life to live out his faith. Each Sunday at this point of the service, my father, a Chicago businessman himself, never failed to poke me and silently point to Frank Loesch with pride. Sometime I’d catch a tear in my father’s eye. For my dad and for all of us this was and is what authentic living is all about.” author=”Bruce Larson”/]
Courage?[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Adrian Rogers tells about the man who bragged that he had cut off the tail of a man-eating lion with his pocket knife. Asked why he hadn’t cut off the lion’s head, the man replied: Someone had already done that.” author=”Adrian Rogers”/]
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.
Imagine if you have taken a stand, you have spoken the words and espoused your beliefs publicly. Then you are severely tested on a personal basis. Will you have the courage to stand up for what you say you believe, especially when the things you love most are threatened? In some cases, following through on your beliefs with consistency of your actions requires personal risk. It is said that, until we are willing to die for that larger, greater thing, we have not truly begun to live. Martin Luther King was in the process of leading a boycott against the segregated city bus system at a local church when he was informed that someone had fire-bombed his home. That information produced a feeling of intense concern because he believed that both his wife and his young child were in the house. He rushed home and at a distance could see smoke coming from his house. There was a large group of civil rights followers gathered in front of his home. They described
how a bomb had exploded on his front porch and the glass had been blown out of the lower section of the house. The first people he came across gave him the good news that his wife and child had escaped safely. Walking up onto the destroyed porch he turned and looked out on the crowd. They were rightfully enraged about what had occurred to their leader. Many in the angry crowd had armed themselves with weapons and were calling for justice and/or revenge. As the local police arrived, a violent confrontation seemed inevitable. King sensed the potential dangerous situation and raised his hand, quieting the crowd. His words and actions in this moment of crisis remained consistent with his beliefs. “My wife and baby are alright. I am asking that you put down your weapons and go home. We have the weapon of nonviolence, the breastplate of righteousness, the armor of truth. Remember what the bible tells us: do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” By having his beliefs and actions remain in alignment at this moment of truth, he continued the transformation of this nation. Coaches and athletes can help equip themselves to act appropriately in accordance with what they stand for by anticipating confrontational situations before they happen.
When John Challis, a devout sports fan for his 18 year life, found out he was going to die, he knew that he would have a whole new outlook on life. Two years ago a doctor told him that he had a 10 pound cancerous tumor in his stomach, which was about the size of a football. After 18 months of dealing with cancer, John entered his senior year at Freedom High School in western Pennsylvania, and as part of having cancer, his outlook on fear took a drastic U-turn. Previously, John’s fear of being hit by the pitch drove him from the sport that he loved, baseball. After being diagnosed, he thought of being hit by the ball, compared to cancer, as something ridiculous to be afraid of. He said “Sports, that was my love…still is but in a different way.”
On April 11th 2008 John Challis took an opportunity to conquer his fear. His “different way” of playing baseball wasn’t any different except for the flapjack that he wore to protect his ribs. But stepping up to that plate again helped him prove to himself that he could hit the ball and conquer his fear. In the 4th inning of the game at Freedom High School John Challis was called up to pinch hit. As the 93 pound young man, was walking to the plate, he looked at the catcher’s mask which had the number 11, John’s number, written on it along with the initials J.C. John saw it, chuckled and said “nice mask.” All he wanted to do was for people to pray for him. He didn’t want anybody feel sorry for him. He hit the first pitch, a fastball, that was thrown in the strike zone and drilled it between first and second and went into the outfield for a single. Halfway down the baseline he was yelling, I Did It! I Did It! He was 1 for 1 in his baseball career, batting 1.000 with 1 RBI.
Under his hat that day John wrote the following… John Challis #11 Courage + Believe = Life. It became his motto, and also touched the lives of people he has never met all across the nation. His message lives on, and will inspire many more in addition to the millions he has already touched. He taught his sister, Lexie Challis, to “live today’s life, and live to the fullest today.” It is through his quotes and messages like these that we will return to his story and look upon it again and again for advice, and remember the life of a very inspirational young man.
John Challis passed on Tuesday August 19th 2008 at his home in Pennsylvania.
Ten Hard Steps to Being Courageous:
- Take responsibility for your own actions. Don’t be a victim anymore and blame your troubles on others. Own your life and own it fully, good or bad.
- Live with integrity. Make sure that what you think, do, and say are always the same. Sometimes that means you are going to have to make decisions
that are not convenient, popular, or politically correct. Make them anyway.
- Go outside the box. Get off the safe and comfortable road and onto that “road less traveled” where you might fail. Find your sweet spot and go for
It. Dare to be great!
- Take your blinders off and look at things from a different perspective. Stop going along with the crowd, maybe “your truth” is not “the truth”. Explore.
- Make your dreams so big that you know they will fail without “divine” intervention. The greatest danger is not that our dreams are too lofty and that
we will fail to reach them, but that they are too small and we do!
- Be who you are. Be authentic. Be you.
- Dare to speak up, to voice your concerns, your feelings and thoughts and to engage opposing opinions. Speaking up in ways that honor the dignity of others, builds trust.
- Step in the middle of it and take action. Have the intestinal fortitude to not procrastinate or make excuses. Be the one to go first, others will follow.
- Persevere when the going gets tough. Don’t give up. Stay the course.
- Say No. Set your course and have the discipline to say no to distractions. It’s not easy to say no to distractions, but they often lead you down the wrong path.
- Let go of control. Seek the serenity to accept the things you cannot change.
- Be a leader. Inspire people to be greater versions of themselves. Encourage others through humble servant leadership. Who is waiting for you to lead Them?