To live the life we long for in our heart, we must have courage to triumph over the fear that’s been holding us back to this point. Obviously, this is much easier to say than to do … but even so, it’s key to developing the inner peace and sense of contentment that so many of us long for.
In pursuit of constructing our best life, there are a number of personal virtues that would typically factor in. We could consider them to be ‘cardinal’ … not necessarily in the religious sense, but rather in the literal sense – the word cardinal comes from the Latin for ‘hinge’ and in this context, it simply means that other things stem from it. So if we look, then, at what are considered cardinal virtues, we would typically include things like prudence, restraint, justice, courage, faith, hope, and love.
Of all these human virtues, the one that is usually lacking is courage. And yet, it could be considered the most critically important, in that it seems to underpin all the rest – you can’t have love without courage; we need courage to find hope and faith; to pursue justice certainly requires courage; exercising prudence and restraint both take courage … so of all these virtues, courage could apparently be considered the key ingredient, essential to unlocking our happiness.
Well, let’s consider courage, then, and what it means. Courage is not the same as being fearless … rather, it means continuing in spite of our fear. Courage does not allow comfort and security to become a crutch, but requires us to persevere despite fear, pain, past failures, loss, loneliness or uncertainty. We need courage when facing moral dilemmas; and when we make mistakes or misjudgements, we need courage to forgive ourselves … and others.
We need courage to make ourselves vulnerable to the possibility of rejection, such as when we offer help to another. How often have we come upon an opportunity to do something good for someone, but lacked the courage to overcome our uncertainty or awkwardness in approaching them, and so we let the moment pass. We allowed ourselves to be convinced that to step forward might incur rejection, and this fear persuaded us to turn away. Our gesture might have changed that person’s entire day – or even their life. But our fear of their reaction interfered, and the moment was lost.
How would your conscience react to knowing you lacked the courage to act on your compassion and instead let fear rule the moment? Would it nag you and chastise you? Would you regret your cowardice, knowing you allowed fear to prevent you from doing the ‘right thing’? Compare that to how exhilarating it feels when we ignore our fear and do something courageous anyway – when we know we did the right thing at the right time for the right reason. Consider the joy this puts in our heart, and the upbeat mood we create.
They say that inside every person there are two spirits – one is a coward, one is a hero … and the one that rules you is the one you feed. Which one do you nurture? Having courage is about living life with a good heart, embracing the next right thing as a natural reaction rather than a pondered decision. It means being willing to step outside your comfort zone and sacrifice your confidence momentarily to at least offer to do that right thing. The world may reject your offer, but your heart will know you at least tried … for we don’t simply have courage – rather, we take courage. It’s an action, more than an attitude. And taking courage keeps us moving forward in our pursuit of the life we long for. So, what direction are you moving in?
… and as you consider this, remember to stay focused on the Good Things in Life!