“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” C.S. Lewis
I watched a movie the other day. It made me think whether or not I would have the courage to stand up for what I believe, and what I stand for, even in the face of death. It’s easy to say we think something, believe something, and would do something. But would you? Would I?
Courage isn’t thinking about doing something but being too afraid to follow through with it. Courage is action in the face of fear. A life isn’t lived if fear isn’t faced. Conquered. Controlled. A life where fear wins each and every battle isn’t much of a life at all. Back to the movie…
A man and his crew of soldiers, mercenaries, and criminals set out on a mission. A mission that no one else would embark on because of the dangers and almost certain death. Some of the men have nothing to lose. They’re in the group because they’d rather fight than be a prisoner. Others truly believe in the cause of the mission. Skip ahead an hour or so towards the end of the film, and they’re faced with a very difficult decision:
Captured by the cunning enemy, they either renounce their beliefs, and live. Or maintain them and die a gruesome and slow death.
Each is given the opportunity to renounce. Some do. The one’s that do renounce are told that they’re going to be given a home and LIFE. But instead are killed as they’re taken away from the crowd… Hanged to be exact. The rest of the group who are handcuffed don’t know this. All they’ve witnessed is that those who don’t renounce are tortured and then killed. Those who go back on what they ‘believe’ are taken away to what the rest assume is freedom.
As they go down the line, they get to the leader of the group. For him, they bring out two horses. He has ropes tied to both wrists. The horses on either side of him. As the horses are whipped, they begin to walk, stretching his body from opposing sides in the process. Bones breaking. Shoulders, elbows, and wrists dislocating. He screams. But he doesn’t fold. He doesn’t give in.
This goes on for a few rounds until the horses are instructed to run, tearing his limbs from his torso in the process. He dies a slow and painful death simply because he won’t even SAY something that isn’t in line with who he is. He won’t utter words that will save his life because he believes so strongly that death is a the only reasonable option given to him.
And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin’ to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take… OUR FREEDOM!
What would we do?
The same was done to William Wallace. Given the chance at life – and to avoid a very similar death – if only he pledges allegiance to the King of England. A king whom has enslaved and tortured Scotland – as well as killing his family and slaughtering his wife – for years.
As Wallace’s limbs are torn from his body. He screams; “Freedom!”
Martin Luther King Jr. was essentially killed because he was fighting for equality and justice. He could have backed down. Given up his position as the leader of the movement to another. He could have lived a longer life had he stopped. But what is life if we’re not living by some greater purpose than comfort?
Lincoln felt that freedom was a constitutional rite of every single American. Freedom is what America was founded on, and yet slavery was the backbone of its industry. That didn’t sit well with the former him. Lincoln didn’t see the color of one’s skin as a justification for slavery. He was willing to die for the equality of others. The freedom of others.
The many faces of Courage.
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.”” Mary Anne Radmacher
I think of friends and family who posses courage in other ways than the one’s discussed above. I have entrepreneur friends who had a tough go at it in the beginning. I remember my neighbor when I was growing up. He’d work 18 hour days, 7 days a week. Making no money. Investing his time and money into his company, but yielding no returns.
Regardless, he’d wake up everyday with the courage to continue. Today, he’s very successful. The world is filled with millions of others who couldn’t wake up and work for ‘nothing’ but a dream. They reached their end. Their fear got the better of them.
I have met people who recognize their fears and face them head on. I have also met people who let their fear run their lives. One group lives a great, meaningful, and fulfilling life. The other lives a sheltered, even comfortable one.
Courage is standing up for what you believe in, even when you’re standing alone. Courage is growing. It’s putting yourself out on a limb. It’s getting out of your comfort zone. It’s trying something new and frightening that deep down you’ve always wanted to do.
Courage is also putting your dreams on hold. Sacrificing your wants for the health and dreams of someone you care about. Courage has many faces.
A man MUST be Courageous.
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.” Mark Twain
If a man doesn’t have courage – or at least isn’t developing it – he isn’t truly a man.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m in the ‘developing it’ category. If something does scare me, even if I’m put into a situation that makes me nervous, I have learned to recognize my fear. And I face it. I’ve began to go so far as to seek it out.
No matter what our fear is, the end result is always a lot better than we fear it could be.
If a man* doesn’t have courage, who can he support? How can he support his girlfriend or wife when he’s just as scared as she is, and he’s not willing to face those fears? How can he support his children when his judgement is clouded by fear? How can he help anyone reach their potential if he’s too afraid to reach his own?
How to Develop Courage
Step #1 Know what you stand for.
Know who you are and what is important to you. It doesn’t have to be something groundbreaking. It can be very simple and – to someone else – small and inconsequential. Hard work. Health and physical fitness. Being kind to people. Putting your family first, or simply others first. Facing fear at every opportunity.
All of those things are great things to “stand for”. Make this list short and personal. What you stand for is a big part of who you are. Knowing who you are is pretty important.
Step #2 Know your wildest dreams.
Whenever I set goals I think, “if failure wasn’t an option, what would I like to accomplish?”
Another thing I do yearly is create my perfect day. That day that if I had to live one for the rest of my life, this would be it. Where would I live, who would I be living with, what would I do, eat, smell, think, drink? Break it down to the smallest most insignificant detail.
We need to know what we want most out of life if we’re going to live our wildest dreams (kinda the point of life, no?). It seems like a no brainer, but how many of us actually write this down and keep it at the forefront of our thoughts when we’re making big decisions?
Everything we do should help us get to this place where we’re living what we once could only dream.
Step #3 Know your fears.
Dreams are our most pure desires. They’re also scary once you set out to achieve them. We spend so much time running from our fears, but it’s often these fears that would lead to the greatest growth and sense of accomplishment. We should be going towards them. Conquering them.
Know what scares you most. We need to understand what we’re afraid of when we make decisions in our lives.
Are you staying with your girlfriend simply because you’re afraid of being alone? Are staying at the job you hate because you’re scared to try something new and fail? Are you not going on that life-changing trip because you’re scared of dying on a plane? Are you not going up to that beautiful girl and telling her so, because you’re afraid of rejection?
Fear can be debilitating. Conquering our fear is liberating. Write down 10 things that scare you. Work on not letting these fears hold you back from living a great life. Have the courage to conquer them.
Step #4 Have the courage to take action.
We now know what we stand for. We know our dreams. We also know our fears. We have a very concrete, tangible idea of how we can develop courage. We’re never going to have an absence of fear. If you do, go to a shrink. You have something wrong with you.
But we can develop and cultivate the courage to face those fears.
Why do this? The day we started living was the very day we started dying. We literally have one shot at life. And it’s not a very long one. It can also be taken from us any minute. If we live a life controlled by fear, one without courage, we’re going to fail at life. It won’t be a waste – or will it? – but it won’t be a masterpiece either.
Step #5 Do something everyday that scares you.
The butterflies I had in my last fight don’t compare to those I had in my first. Or my first time sparring for that matter. In my last they were relatively non-existent. I was so comfortable going into that last fight, and it was my best one up to that point.
If we face little fears daily, the big one’s become easier. Think of things you can do everyday that scare you a little. Join a rec league team of people you don’t know and have never met. Try a new activity. Visit a new place in your city. Try stand-up comedy. Just take action!
Let’s make a list and help each other out with this one in the comments section:
What’s a fear you can face tomorrow? (If you have more than one, add them all).
*Of course a woman needs courage as well. My Mom is one of the most – if not the most – courageous people I know. My site’s readership is 99% guys. Which is why I address them. Not the one percent. If you are a woman reading this. Put a “wo” in front of every “man” and you’ll benefit from the article just as much as the fellas.