Life Lessons – Courage

“Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the recognition that there is a greater purpose in the pursuit than the consequences that may result.”

There is a storyline that has been told and retold throughout history that is a tale of a hero making journey against impossible odds. The plot is of a solitary figure combating injustice, risking death to save the down trodden, or the figure of great integrity battling an evil bureaucracy to reestablish human dignity. From the Odyssey or David and Goliath in ancient literature to modern fictional characters such as the Lone Ranger, James Bond or Aticus Finch in to Kill A Mocking Bird, the stories inspire our imagination where we too possess the attributes of courage.

Yet courage, in real life, is less a series of dramatic events and more a single moment in time that demands an obvious action. People normally thought of as heroic train over and over again to react to potential situations in a way that keeps their emotions in check while preforming their duty. Members of the military face a battle without letting the reality of facing death debilitate them. Fire fighters rush into a burning building because their training has conditioned them to react without a thought of the potential danger. We think of this as courageous but the trained professional doesn’t understand the praise because they are “only doing their job”.

Similarly, a normal person who acts spontaneously to a save a child in danger or a passerby who rushes to help those in an auto accident do so without assessing the risk they may be putting themselves in. More often then not, they feign being called a hero because to them they are nothing special, they are only doing “what anyone would have done”.

Therefore, what is courage? It involves a frame of mind that propels an action because it has a greater purpose, at that moment, than anything else. Those who act in this way have a compelling purpose and an uncommon energy that takes over in a moment with no preparation or thought process. In many such incidences, there is little explanation as to why they were compelled to act, only that they acted instinctively and seemingly without an ability to do otherwise.

In this sense, we are all courageous when we act on a purpose in our lives. When we live for something other than ourselves we are heroes to those we use our time and talent to support. How many of us revere our mother of father for the sacrifices they made for us? When it comes our turn to give back, we do so instinctively without thinking of ourselves but only repaying what was done for us. And, there are other causes in our lives that compel us to demonstrate our willingness to give rather than take. Service clubs in our communities, non-profits supporting the underprivileged, neighbors pitching in after a destructive storm are the avenues for all of us to be courageous when we do so willingly and without any thought of making a sacrifice.

Finding your purpose and living your purpose is what Stage 12 in the book is meant to illuminate. In particular, this chapter gives an understanding of the attitudes inherent in giving. You are likely not to feel completely whole, completely satisfied or have a sense of belonging if you live without purpose. This essay is an encouragement for you to step back from self-centered pursuits and do so without any contemplation of the consequences.

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