Courage. It’s been at the forefront of my awareness, whether I am witnessing courage in action or noticing its absence. It could be a public figure taking a stand for the greater good, or a team member naming the elephant in the room. It might be someone I hardly know struggling to face a new day. Or the search for courage within myself to keep walking through challenging situations when it would be easier to walk away. Yet in a bigger sense, what is getting my attention is a deepening awareness that courage is an inside job. It shows up from deep inside us when we are aligned with who we are and what truly matters to us.
The word “courage” has its roots in the Latin cor, meaning “heart.” The 14th-century French word corage meant “deep inner feelings from the heart and from what we are passionate about.” Courage is driven by the heart—by what is so important to us or we believe in so strongly that we are willing to take a stand for it.
The moment when life calls on you to be more
Rita Dove is an American poet and essayist as well as a chemical engineer. She’s been a pioneer in breaking racial and gender barriers in science and engineering as well as in the literary world and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1987. In her words:
Courage has nothing to do with
our determination to be great.
It has to do with what we decideRita Dove
in that moment when
we are called upon to be more.
There are, of course, courage stories that movies get made about—stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Things that impacted many peoples’ lives or changed the course of human history. Acts that could have cost them their careers or their families or even their lives. Some of us may have even met one of those people. Yet in day-to-day living, we all experience moments when we are called upon to be more.
Perhaps there has been a moment in your life when something dear to you was challenged or threatened. A moment when a boundary was crossed, or something or someone incredibly important to you was suddenly at risk.
Maybe it happened so quickly that there was no time to think. Your whole system jumped into action. Or perhaps it was a situation that escalated over time. At first, you weren’t sure what to do. It was if you were on hold, and then suddenly something inside pushed you over the edge into action. A truth had to be spoken; a stand had to be taken. You couldn’t be still; you did what you had to do. Maybe it happened in the presence of one person, maybe in front of many witnesses. No matter, you couldn’t remain silent. Courage.
Courage is love in action
I recently heard the poet David Whyte say, “Courage is what love looks like when tested by the simple everyday necessities of being alive.”
Courage is love in action. The outward action—taking the courageous step—happens when deep love or commitment, whether to a person or an ideal, rises up from within us and demands action. What we call the courageous act is an expression of a raw truth—an expression of who we are and what matters to us.
So, courage is an inside job. Something happens in the core of our being that will not let us remain still. We may not even realize it’s happening until we’re already speaking up or we’ve already moved into action. We’re in motion and there is no turning back. Courage adrenaline kicks in and fuels our ability to do what we can’t not do.
How to develop courage
How do you develop courage? By living into the callings of your heart. By living into your soul mission or life purpose. By knowing who you are and why you’re here and living that every day. The more you remain focused on that, the more you discover you have courage to do things you never imagined. Because it’s what is being asked for in the moment. Because if you are living in integrity with yourself and the world around you, you can’t not say yes to the truth in your heart.
When have you been, in Rita Dove’s words, called upon to be more?
Breathe into that moment. What was happening inside you?
How did that moment mirror something that was important to you at that time—your values, your core principles, your passions?
What is courage asking you for right now, whether in your personal life or in the world around you?
American writer and philosopher Audre Lorde’s words are with me always: “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” Know who you are and why you’re here. Live your life as an expression of the callings of your heart. Keep your focus and commitment to your soul mission. And courage will grow strong at your core.
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Related Blog Posts:
- How to Stand Tall and Keep Going When Challenges Keep Coming
- Making Space for Courage and Fear, Confidence and Doubt, Resilience and Disillusionment, All at the Same Time
- Learning to Love the Thing You Wish Had Not Happened
- Falling Deeper into Grace
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