Anais Nin, once wrote, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage”. Without courage to draw upon, we can't be our best selves. Our lives become narrow, limited experiences and our hearts shrink. Nothing is more important than courage, without it our feelings of anxiety, fear and shame become our constant companions.
But what is courage? It’s easy to think that courage is the bold action taken by super heroes however at The Character Company we believe that courage is NOT the absence of fear. Instead, it is the capacity to think, speak and act despite our fear and shame.
Rushing into a burning building, we agree takes courage but no more or less than the boy who opens up a deeply painful subject like abuse or neglect with a family member. What about the courage it requires to take a principled position that might cost you a relationship or a job?
Courage can be bold actions but courage can also be the quiet step forward, getting up to fight another day.
Consider the following bold acts of courage:
In the midst of an intense marital argument, a husband suddenly stops arguing and tells himself that for the rest of the conversation, he will simply ask questions and try to understand his wife’s point of view. He shifts into a place of really listening, detaching from the question of who is right or what is true or how he can best understand why his wife is so upset.
A man, in the midst of a painful divorce, shares his vulnerability with his golf partner, whom he knows is also divorced. It is the first time he has revealed something so intimately personal to a male friend.
A man arranges to take two days off work when his mother visits, instead of assuming that his wife will entertain her. He arranges a day trip for just the two of them and reconnects with his aging mom.
A husband tells his wife at breakfast, “I was thinking about the conversation we had last night.” He then says, “I was wrong” and “I’m sorry.” The last time he said these words to her were...well, he can’t remember.
The Character Company uses our adventure camp experience to demonstrate how they can apply courage. Our boys learn that it takes courage to keep climbing when they are scared or tired, the courage to trust that themselves and their fellow campers, the courage to honour their fear and limitations by saying, “I am scared to continue. I need to take the next step and get this done.”
As we have stated courage is not always an external expression, it takes enormous courage to observe and change oneself in key relationships. Relational courage is the yellow brick road to happiness, emotional maturity, and personal integrity.
Consider how you define relational courage in your own life and how you might practice more of it. Don't plead ignorance. No expert in the world knows better than you do about how to warm the other person's heart, lower the negative intensity, and bring more of your authentic and best self into a relationship. It's the small acts of everyday courage that make the biggest difference over time. It's a matter of motivation, a genuine wish for a better relationship and a willingness to practice bold new acts of change.
Everything in this world that is truly worth doing takes practice. Courage is no exception.