On Having Courage

I was completing the next chapter in my workbook on healing when the question was posed, “what is your definition of courage?”. I found myself staring for quite a while at the blank space in which to write my answer down. I really didn’t know how I would define courage in a personal way. Dictionary answers are often pretty sterile—I like to define words in ways that are inspiring and meaningful.

I told my leader that I didn’t know how to answer it because anything I wrote down would implicate ME as being courageous and that just certainly couldn’t be true because I didn’t believe it about myself. She began to list all the ways that she thought I had shown courage over the past several years of my life and that made me deny having courage even more.

Switching gears, she challenged me to find a definition of courage that resonated with me. After searching for a while, I came across this quotation:

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”

-Mary Anne Radmacher

THIS captured courage perfectly to me. I can get on board with the idea that courage doesn’t always roar. What is it about us that thinks that courage means a public showing of bravado? The most courageous things I have done in my life have often been in the complete silence and stillness of being alone with God, making a decision that no one else knows about. In those moments, it hasn’t always felt courageous. But I believe it is because I always thought courage meant not having or showing any fear.

I have walked with people through their most courageous decisions: getting on with life after the death of a spouse; helping their child heal from abuse; overcoming addictions; facing cancer head on; seeking counseling and therapy or getting on anti-depressants; uprooting their lives to head to a foreign country to spread the Word; staying in a hard-relationship; ending a relationship; breaking unhealthy family cycles; going back to school after having a career and raising kids; purposefully and intentionally building bridges with “others” (people who are different than ourselves); fostering and adopting children from trauma backgrounds; parenting children with special needs; and there’s so much more I could write.

Joshua 1:9 is often quoted at the outset of a big project or decision, “Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” I have mistakenly used this verse to perpetuate the idea that courage is public bravado, no fear, no pain, no regrets. It is incongruent with the entire message of the Bible that we should have courage based on our own aptitude or abilities. The source of our courage and strength is not found in ourselves. It is found in a God who never leaves us, nor forsakes us. Who doesn’t always pick the loudest, most popular, most handsome/pretty, most talented, most likely to be chosen person to be the world-changers. Far more often, He chooses the person who everyone else would overlook that has “tried again” at every one of their tomorrows.

So where are you in this defining of courage? What do you think about this new definition? Have you been like me, thinking that courage was always a public showing of no-holds-barred bravado? Do you think that this definition of courage might mean that you’re courageous when you never once thought you were? Share your thoughts and let’s learn from each other.



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