“A man with outward courage dares to die; a man with inner courage dares to live.” ~ Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching …
Not all forms of courage receive equal treatment in society and culture today. The first form of courage, outward courage, is often afforded much of the focus and glory, whereas inner courage, is often overlooked and rarely acknowledged. This is most likely due to the fact that the first kind is easier to notice, and often requires less time and effort to exhibit. An example would be hockey player Bobby Baun, who broke his leg when he blocked a hockey puck during a game. He left the game shortly only to return and score the game-winning goal with a broken leg. This display of courage was seen and noticed by many, and took only a few moments to display. But what about someone battling an addiction? This individual may spend months, days, and even years in a struggle that is recognized by perhaps only a few.
When developing courage, we must find ways of overcoming our fears. If I have fears of social situations, I could place myself in more of them to help alleviate and condition those fears. If I have fear of confrontation, I could find ways to involve myself in situations in which I am forced to confront certain issues. If I have a fear of losing material things that I have given too much value to in life, I could try not to let myself develop an emotional bond with things that are not important in life by giving some of those things away and spending less time around them.
The trickiest thing about courage, though, is that sometimes it can be the exact opposite of what we think it is. Gandhi’s non-violent rebellion against the British occupation of his country, was called cowardly by some, and reckless by others; however, it turned out to be the most effective approach possible, and perhaps the most courageous stand anyone could have possibly taken.
The concept of courage supports both the kind that can be easily seen by others, as well as the kind that cannot. And the beauty of this truth is that we do not need to perform courageous acts in the face of death, or have our names immortalized in story or song, for us to experience courage. All we must do is “dare to live.” This means not giving our fears power in our lives. Our inner courage is ours and ours alone. And however true we are to that courage will go on to determine exactly who is in control of our lives.
Reflect on the different kinds of courage within your life.
Questions to consider:
Why do we tend to value outward courage so strongly?
Who are some of the most courageous people you know? What kinds of hidden inner courage might they possess?
How can you develop your courage?
For further thought:
“The courage of life is often a less dramatic spectacle than the courage of a final moment; but it is no less than a magnificent mixture of triumph and tragedy. A person does what he or she must–in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures–and that is the basis of all human morality.” ~ John F. Kennedy