Monday, November 19, 2007

Courage and faith.....

I've seen a few posts about courage lately and it got me to thinking about that topic.

I see courageous people every day although they may not be the courageous people of novels and movies. They may not be able to run into burning buildings and save lives and they may not jump out of airplanes but they are courageous.

It's hard to come up with an operational definition for courage. Maybe it's something we know when we see it but can't conjure it up and put it in a neatly defined box.

I know that I am not a courageous person. There are times when it appalls me how little courage I have ~ by my own definition.

Would I run into a burning building to save someone?


That's not choice. It's human obligation.

Would I jump out of an airplane?

If properly trained, yes, I probably would.

But courage, I suspect, is more in the realm of the everyday. It depends on a willingness to suspend emotional safety. The physical is so much easier because we can train for that. There are coaches and teachers who are more than willing to pass that knowledge along.

One of my greatest weaknesses is an inability to step into the unknown enough to really test my own faith. Sitting in the safety of my own home, it's easy to have faith. It's easy to believe in the inherent goodness of all, the benevolence of others and a deity.

When it comes to the rough and tumbleness of the outside world, it's something I've never handled well. I've completely chickened out, even to a point of creating an ability to detach that is unhealthy. I know my limitations and the things I would not be able to handle.

I don't have what it takes to raise a child or walk someone through something so devastating that my mind can only comprehend it in small chunks. I don't have what it takes to be a single mother, struggling to feed her kids. I don't have what it takes to ever face the kind of bone-breaking poverty that some face on a day to day basis. I'm not the sort of person who would be resourceful in that situation. My past method of coping with truly hard stuff has been to run. I'm a Master Runner. When it comes to running from difficult emotional situations, I would easily win the International Marathon.

While I've certainly had my tests, thankfully the two I mentioned have not been among them. My tests have always involved having to create from scratch rather than to cope with something that already exists. I haven't done a smash-up job in the creating department, either.

This is one way I've allowed myself to be entirely spiritually lazy. I've allowed myself to live a very insulated life, one that holds safety, not wonder and amazement. I've lived on a diet of bland food, in a manner of speaking.

I believe next year's spiritual challenge has been presented ~ in the form of a blog post read in the dark morning hours.

I must be more courageous. I can not be of service to anyone when I am perpetually wandering aimlessly down the Yellow Brick Road like the cowardly lion, hoping a wizard will give me courage.

I'll do my best.

What do you think about courage? What gives you courage?



Tricia said...

I don't think you're giving yourself enough credit, Chani. Courage can manifest itself in lots of different circumstances, and I've reached a conclusion that any given situation can't be compared to or ranked against others. They're all unique, and all difficult and scary in their own ways.

We all have difficult stories to tell. But who's to say which situation is more difficult or requires more courage than another? There are just way too many variables to take into consideration: specific personality traits, personal history, etc. What might take insurmountable amounts of courage for one person could barely be a blip on the radar of another.

I also have a great deal of confidence in saying that when we imagine ourselves stuck in a particular horrifying situation, we often declare ourselves to be utterly incapable of ever making it through said situation. But I believe that as human beings, we all have an innate strength in us to get ourselves through whatever might be thrown at us. I think our imaginations run crazy, creating scenarios that would probably be much worse than any potential reality, and in turn, they cause us to beat ourselves down as being 'not strong enough' to ever be able to face this situation.

Frankly, I think it's a waste of our time and energy to allow our imaginations to head down this path. But we all do it. On the other hand, it can also spark respect and admiration of our fellow humans who just might have made it through something we can't imagine making it through ourselves. I think the key is to make sure we only allow our minds to take it that far, and not any further to where it affects our own self-confidence.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Julie Pippert said...

This is a good description and discussion of courage, especially the point of stepping outside of emotional safety.

I think you have courage: you are stepping off the path you initially laid for yourself that wasn't helpful for you and are making new and different choices that create good, which I believe has a ripple effect.

I think courage requires most of all wisdom, to be able to know when to step outside the lines. KWM?

Using My Words

Jozet at Halushki said...

In addition to what the wise women above me have already posted - and including you post - I think that sometimes people discount their own courage because it is mixed with fear or uncertainty or self-doubt or even with disgust for their own actions and feelings in conjunction with the act that is also seen as being outwardly courageous.

I don't think that any of these "negative" emotions lessen the impact of the hard hammer of courage against the soul if we're talking about a certain situation's challenge acting as the bellows and fire that mold us into some other (spiritual) object.

And as far as relative safety...there are definitely some shoes I don't want to walk in. But I also know that when the choice is as black and white as "walk on, or die", some people choose to walk on and live, and others choose to die. And neither is a less courageous choice. There is no certainty in the next step of either. Each choice requires walking into some new fire.

the individual voice said...

Your definition: "willingness to suspend emotional safety" is very profound and beautiful, and something I struggle with all the time.

QT said...

Oh boy - I will have to come back to this one, Chani. But I think you are selling yourself short. You have walked through a few different emotional fires to be "comfortable" where you are today, haven't you?

heartinsanfrancisco said...

This is a beautiful meditation on courage, which by the way, was required in huge amounts just to post it.

I would hardly consider you a person who lacks courage. You have abundant courage of your convictions, which combined with your verbal fluidity, lights a path by encouraging us to also stand by our beliefs.

You are a cowardly lion only in your own eyes because to many of us, you are the wizard.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Oh, and what gives me courage? Conviction and caring. Where both exist, it is out of my hands and there can be no other course but to evince what might be called courage, but I call it survival.

liv said...

i won't say you're selling yourself short, but i will say that i don't think you truly know what you're capable of until you are thrust into a situation. we all cope with what we're handed. some days are better than others.

rebecca said...


from reading your posts, i do believe you to be a courageous person. stop looking at the merriam-webster definition of courage and look instead in the chani book of courage. i'm sure there are more than a few different definitions there. all our paths are different; to get to where we are today and be able to formulate our ideas and words, express them, know our shortcomings, believe in the unknown, know there is always something better out there, never losing faith (whatever your interpretation of that may be) -- all of that is courage.

what gives me courage? life, because i've never been attracted to the alternative.


flutter said...

I get called brave frequently. This is a difficult thing for me to swallow since I frequently feel like I am swinging by a thread. Courage is so hard to quantify and is far ranging and all depends on your perspective, I suppose.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes just getting out of bed, or putting one foot infront of the other to begin your day is courage. I find I am most courageous when confronted by injustice.

Janet said...

In general, I am not a very courageous person. This sounds so stereotypical, but I feel like having children has helped me immensely in this department. No matter how uncomfortable a situation might be, I suck it up when I need to, for them.

seventh sister said...

You state that you don't have what it takes to rais a child but I think that if you had been put in the situation to do it, you would have been fine. Sometimes it takes a lot more courage and imagination to get yourself out of a situation than to stay in it. As the saying goes, if you argue for you limitations, you get to keep them. I think that a lot of people who are in difficult situations remain there because they see only the limits that keep them where they are. I lived that way for a long time.

I took a lot for me to break out of that mind set and create a life that is more genuine.

Molly said...

I think your blog proves your courage. You always tackle topics of weight and substance. I steer away from subjects that really weigh me down and escape into banality on my blog. If I had courage I'd write about them, but the thought makes me skittish.....

Ordinary people show courage every day, just dealing with life, standing by loved ones who need them, forcing themselves to take the high road, when the easier way would be the lower, less honourable road....Even in war, the heroes, were not courageous because they were braver than the rest. They were terrified too, but did what had to be done. Not sure I'm making any sense here. As I said, you always make my head hurt! Which is not a bad thing.......

meno said...

"It depends on a willingness to suspend emotional safety."

That might be the best definition i have ever read of courage.

The few times i have been able to do this, it has paid off, both in my feelings and with the result.

Rimarama said...

I think your absolutely right in saying that the courage of convictions is a much more difficult thing to embrace than physical courage. I struggle with it all the time. I agree with a lot of what the previous commenters have said about not knowing what you are capable of until being faced with it. Sometimes it just takes a certain kind of situation for the courage to manifest itself.

Kikipotamus said...

Just remember to start where you are. Even a small stretch outside your usual comfort zone takes courage.

Angela said...

There were moments in my life when I could not leave my house, when I couldn't bear the thought of going to work, and when I was afraid to drive my car. I did these things...but not because I was courageous. I did them because I was afraid. Afraid to lose my job, my ability to sustain myself. In my experience, fear motivates me to do things that frighten me very much. When the risks associated with remaining still are greater than the risks associated with facing down my fears, I'm able to move forward. I've been told that I am courageous. I've never seen it that way, though. I never set out to be courageous. Does anyone?

painted maypole said...

first of all, i think you are quite courageous. the bit you share of yourself here, your willingness to go against the norm, to speak what you believe, and then LIVE it, that is courage.

as I read your definition, I couldn't help but think of Jen at OnePlusTwo. she seems to fit your definition beautifully

jen said...

you give me courage for having the strength to be honest about so many things.

flutter gives me courage for facing her demons and kicking them in the ass.

meno gives me courage for raising a strong teenager.

so many women here give me courage.

homeless people give me courage, there's a reason to show up every single day.

my child gives me courage because it costs too much to be afraid.

Laurie said...

Knowing that my son loves me and that I'm his best friend in the universe gives me courage.

And I agree that you don't give yourself enough credit Chani. Your blog posts alone show the great courage you possess.

hele said...

For me courage is to keep on pulling forward towards my dream even when my steps are made heavy with depression and a fear of failure.

Thank you for reminding me to honour my own and other peoples courage.

Courage changes the world when change is the scariest thing one can think of.

Berita dari gunung said...

interesting blog.

niobe said...

I love this post. For me, though, courage isn't the virtue that I'm seeking. In my life, I've managed to do just fine without it and there are so many other qualities of mind that I lack and wish I had.

anne said...

I came to your blog through your comment - I am so glad I did. Wonderful and interesting.

So many of the other comments expressed it much better than I will be able to but as for courage, I think it is one of those things that is easier to recognize in others rather than ourselves. We are so used to our own daily trials that courage may never even register in our own minds.

I'm not sure of the exact way it went but I once heard that if we all threw our hats in a ring and got to really look at the hats that other people had to wear, we would most likely take our own hat back. Or more to the point: better the devil you know than the one you don't. A perfect example of our general fear of the unkown.

What gives me courage? Mostly seeing other people just dealing with life. That gives me courage in the day to day drudgery. Although the thing that gives me courage to try something new is the fear of not paying attention when opportunity might be knocking.

Snoskred said...

I don't know what if anything gives me courage but I know what makes me fight - injustice. When I feel as though I have been wronged, I have to stand up and do something these days. That's because I let it go so many times in the past.


slouching mom said...

like others, i believe you vastly underestimate your own courage. courage is relative, not absolute.

Emily R said...

Before I had children, I could never have imagined I would have the courage to do whatever it takes to protect them. Now I cannot imagine I would ever NOT do what it takes. So, like the others, I think courage is something you will only be able to assess in the actual situation.

PeterAtLarge said...

As I understand it, courage is a matter of getting past one's fears, no matter what they are. I agree with what Angela had to say. It may take one person all the courage in the world just to step outside their front door in the morning. It may take courage to give--or to receive--love. Sometimes the courageous course is just saying No. It's that willingness to push past whatever is holding me back that defines courage for me. Thanks for the post, Chani

Anonymous said...

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that frightens us. We ask ourselves 'who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?'

Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It's not just in some of us; its in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

Marianne Williamson

Joel said...

acceptance of change, demonstrates courage to me. We get so comfortable in our little rituals that we resist change rather than embrace it.
Good to reconnect Thailand Gal
Your way... enticed me to travel this past August to Kumphwapi, Udon Thani not to far from Khon Kaen
Peace from Schenectady,

crazymumma said...

courage. huh.

courage to face another day.

I wonder. If faced with a burning building (something I have had the unfortunate experience to run out of), would I run in? Not if I thought it would take me from my children. Even. Even if it were their father inside.

That could be considered courage as well I suppose.

DMB said...

The most courageous thing I've ever done was decide that Guilt is useless and that I was meant to enjoy my existence.

Contrary to what I feared, my life is far from meaningless and shallow.

Courage is many things, I think.

Love this post!

Anonymous said...

Chani, we are so very much alike, in our weaknesses.